2021 was a mega year for British tennis. Not only was a new star born (we refer, of course, to Emma Radacanu), but Dan Adams established his claimed a place in the world top 30 in the men’s rankings, and Andy Murray fought his way back to fitness, playing eight tournaments in succession following his exit from the US Open at the end of August when he took Stefan Tsitsipas to five sets.
The one note of sadness was Johanna Konta, arguably the best British women’s tennis player over the last 30 years, announcing her retirement at the age of 30. The reason she gave was feeling that she was not able to continue investing all that is necessary to compete on the circuit at the highest level.
The Rise of a New British Tennis Super Star
The big story, of course, was the arrival of young Emma Radacanu in a year that saw the then 18-year-old girl from Bromley in Kent go from sitting her “A” levels to lifting one of the biggest trophies of the world tennis tour – the US Open.
Her rocket rise began just two months after sitting “A” level exams in economics and mathematics, when she played her first ever senior WTA game at the Nottingham Open.
She was beaten 6-4, 6-3 by Harriet Dart in the first round but followed up at the same venue one week later by reaching the quarter-finals of a lesser tournament. It was enough to persuade the Wimbledon selectors to grant her a wild card entry to what many regard as the top tournament in world tennis, and it was the beginning of her whirlwind rise to tennis stardom. At that time, she was 338th in the WTA world rankings.
Emma’s Wimbledon Journey
Although Emma’s Wimbledon journey was to end in tears, at the age of 18 years and 239 days, she became the youngest British female tennis player to reach the last 16 since the beginning of the open era.
Sadly, she was forced to retire in the second set of her match against the 28-year-old Croatian Ajla Tomljanović due to experiencing breathing difficulties.
US Open Glory
Having ditched her coach, Nigel Sears (father in law to Andy Murray), then losing her first-round match against Zhang Shuai in the warm-up competition, the Silicon Vally Classic, she hired former youth coach Andrew Richardson and reached the final of another warm-up competition, the WTA 125 tournament in Chicago. She lost in three sets, but by this time, her ranking rose to 150th, and she was ready and waiting for Flushing Meadows and the US Open.
The rest, as they say, is history. She began her quest with impressive wins over Bibiane Schoofs, Mariam Bolkvadze, and Mayar Sherif to qualify for a place in the main draw. Once there, she had wins over Stefanie Vögele, Zhang Shuai (gaining revenge for losing to her in the Silicon Valley Classic), Sara Sorribes Tormo, Shelby Rogers, Belinda Bencic, and Maria Sakkari. She reached the final without losing a single set.
Radacanu’s Lits of Broken Records
Emma Radacanu may not be the youngest player to win the WTA US Open according to sportingbet.com – that honour remains with Tracy Austin, who won the title at the age of 16 years 8 months and 16 days, back in 1997. She is, however, the first qualifier ever to have won the US Open.
Miss Radacanu is also the first British female tennis player to win a Grand Slam in 44 years when in 1977, Virginia Wade won Wimbledon.
All in all, it has been an exceptional year for Emma Radacanu, culminating in being voted the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
A Good Year too for Cameron Norrie
Although Emma Radacanu stole the headlines for Brit tennis players in 2022, it was also a good year for 26-year-old Cameron Norrie. As Andy Murray struggled to find form after a hip operation some 11 months ago, Corrie rose through the ATP rankings to reach a career-high of 12th.
In October, Norrie got to his first-ever Masters 1000 final in Indian Wells. Seeded 21, he went on to beat Tennys Sandgren, Roberto Bautista Agut, Tommy Paul, and Diego Schwartzman to reach the semi-final – a feat that saw him overtake Dan Evans to become the new British number one.
The final of the BNP Paribas Open was a hard-fought affair but saw Norrie emerge the victor, beating Nikoloz Basilashvili 3-6, 6-4, 6-1. As well as being his first ATP Master 1000 title, he also became the first Brit to win at Indian Wells.
Norrie was also given a spot in the ATP Finals in Turin following injuries to Stefan Tsitsipas and Matteo Berrettini. All in all, a good year for the London-based left-hander.
Dan Evans, too had a Good 2022
Despite Cameron Norrie overtaking him for the Britsh number one slot, Dan Evans also had a successful 2022. He, too, won his first-ever ATP title; his at the Murray River Open when he beat Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime in the final. He reached his highest ever ATP ranking at number 22.
Andy Murray Competing at the Highest Level Again
It’s always hard for a former world number one to get their mojo back, but Andy Murray has done just that. Excellent wins against Hubert Hurkacz, currently 9th in the ATP world rankings, and Jannick Sinner, currently 10th, have shown that the Scot still has the belief and ability to compete against top players and perhaps still be in contention for a 6th Grand Slam.
He has received a Wild Card for the Australian Grand Slam in January 2022, and although he is currently ranked 134th in the world and admits he is not in his best form right now, he maintains he still has time to make some adjustments and is looking forward to the challenge.
A Sterling Year for British Tennis
So, when all is said and done, 2022 has been a sterling year for British tennis, especially for a certain Emma Radacanu. Can she build on her US Grand Slam title? That remains to be seen. She is seeded 19 for the Aussie Open, but we know what she is capable of.
The problem is that now she is on everyone’s radar, things are going to be tough for her. We will just have to wait and see what she is made of. Whatever happens, no one can take away her stunning achievements in 2022.