How Emma Raducanu is following in Virginia Wade's tennis footsteps after historic US win

Virginia Wade was the last woman to win the US Open before Emma Raducanu’s magnificent 2021 victory

Virginia Wade OBE seen at the Wimbledon Championships 2015
(Image credit: WFPA / Alamy Stock Photo)

Virginia Wade watched proudly from the crowd in Flushing Meadows as Emma Raducanu became the first British woman to win the US Open since she was crowned champion 53 years ago. 

Emma Raducanu has made history this year after becoming not only the first British woman to reach a Grand Slam final in 44 years, but the first British woman to win the US Open since Virginia Wade after she secured a straight sets victory over Leylah Fernandez on September 11. Emma has now become one of the UK’s biggest sporting names, joining stars such as 13-year-old Sky Brown and Tom Daley. She has also received a huge outpouring of good wishes and was congratulated by the Queen and Kate Middleton

Amongst her high-profile supporters was none other than Virginia Wade herself. As Emma was awarded the highly-coveted trophy on stage at the final, Virginia watched on from the crowd, looking incredibly proud whenever the camera panned over to the retired star. 

But when did Virginia Wade win the US Open, what year did she win Wimbledon and what has she said about new champion Emma Raducanu?  

When did Virginia Wade win the US open?

Retired tennis player Virginia Wade won her first and only US Open title in 1968, 53 years before Emma Raducanu secured victory in the Arthur Ashe Stadium on September 11. This extraordinary win also marked Virginia’s first Grand Slam title in her career and took place four years before she secured her next one. 

British tennis player Virginia Wade, holding a bouquet of flowers and the trophy

(Image credit: Photo by Pix/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Virginia Wade beat US tennis legend Billie Jean King in the US Open final and previously discussed this major match during an interview with former tennis professional and tennis analyst Rennae Stubbs for the New York Times.

Speaking back in 2018, Virginia explained how her performance at Wimbledon earlier on in 1968 contributed to her determination to win in the US.

American tennis player Billie Jean King and British tennis player Virginia Wade, holding a bouquet of flowers, following the Women's Singles Final of the 1968 US Open

(Image credit: Photo by Pix/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

“Well, it was weird because at Wimbledon I lost in the first round, an infamous day that I lost to Christina Sandberg, a Swedish girl who I had no right to lose to on grass,” she disclosed. “But I lost — so I then won the plate and I was pretty excited about that. The plate was for winning the consolation draw.”

She went on to reveal, “Wimbledon, you know, being English I just wanted to stay in the tournament as long as I could. So I was pretty pleased that I won the plate. So then I went to the U.S. Open and I played out of my mind. I just played really well the whole tournament. I don’t know what happened, you know?”

British tennis player Virginia Wade, holding the trophy, alongside American tennis player Billie Jean King, during the US Open presentation ceremony

(Image credit: Photo by Pix/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Discussing her thought-process going into the final, Virginia described the moment she was sitting in the dressing room and “decided” to win.

“I was sitting there thinking, ‘I’ve got to win this match because I may never be in the final again.’ So I decided — I just made the big decision I was going to win it, and I won it. And I think my serve was probably at its best in those days,” she declared.

What year did Virginia Wade win Wimbledon?  

Virginia Wade beat Betty Stöve to win Wimbledon in 1977, watched by the Queen herself, who made a rare appearance at the championship’s centre court for the final. The year and Her Majesty’s appearance was made all the more meaningful given that 1977 was the monarch’s Silver Jubilee year. 

Virginia Wade (Wimbledon 1977)

(Image credit: Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

The Queen will soon celebrate her Platinum Jubilee in 2022, with a four day Bank Holiday confirmed for the UK as the nation celebrates this huge milestone.

And for Virginia, the memory of playing her way to victory all those years before is a similarly unforgettable moment. Opening up to The Guardian back in 2007, she described this pivotal match as, “the thing that made [her] career worthwhile”.

"Angela Mortimer and Ann Jones were great [British] players and won Wimbledon too,” she continued. “But because mine was that particular year and caused a sensation, I got the attention. I feel guilty about that. Life is all about timing."

Queen Elizabeth II ( far left ) looks on as Virginia Wade of Great Britain holds aloft the Venus Rosewater Dish

(Image credit: Photo by Tony Duffy/Allsport/Getty Images)

She went on to tell the publication, "Sometimes it feels like a million years ago, but other times it feels like yesterday. There was a little extra motivation that year because of the jubilee and the fact that it was Wimbledon's centenary year, and maybe fate played a part as well. The Queen was going to be there, and that was enough motivation to say, 'If she's going to be there, I'm going to be there too.' "

Virginia was 31 years old when she became Wimbledon champion in 1977. And her Wimbledon title turned out to be her last Grand Slam win, after the star previously played her way to victory in the US Open and Australian Open.

How old is Virginia Wade now?

Virginia Wade is now 76 years old and marked her most recent birthday on July 10. This was the same day that Kate Middleton stunned in an Emilia Wickstead dress at the Wimbledon women’s final as she awarded the iconic silver trophy to Australian player Ashleigh Barty. Virginia might well have tuned in to see Ashleigh’s achievement in between her birthday celebrations. 

Former tennis champion Virginia Wade is seen prior to the Women's Single's final match between Serena Williams of the United States and Bianca Andreescu of Canada

(Image credit: Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

After going from strength to strength throughout her tennis career and securing three Grand Slam singles titles overall, Virginia retired from professional tennis in 1986.

For her astonishing achievements throughout her career, Virginia has been honored by the Queen with an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire).

How old is Emma Raducanu?

Despite having just won one of the biggest tournaments in the world, Emma Raducanu is 18 years old, set to celebrate her 19th birthday on November 13, 2021. Her age perhaps makes her historic victory all the more fascinating to audiences around the world and it meant she did not celebrate her US Open victory as some past winners might have done with a classic glass of champagne, as she is under the drinking age for the United States.

Opening up to the BBC following her win, Emma reportedly revealed that she was actually planning on enjoying some chocolate frozen yogurt.

At 18, she is the youngest Grand Slam champion since Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon back in 2004. Before entering her first ever Wimbledon championship herself this year, Emma had reportedly just completed her A-Level exams, which are said to have included an A* in math and A in economics. 

The tennis player is also not the only sporting talent to have attended Newstead Wood school, where British Athletics star Dina Asher-Smith was also educated.

What is Emma Raducanu's ranking now that she's won the US Open? 

Emma Raducanu might be only 18 years old but with her brilliant performance at the US Open 2021 she has secured herself the highly coveted British Women’s No.1 spot and is now No. 23 in the world. Though her rise to No.1 was something speculated about following her defeat of Belinda Bencic in the quarter-finals and Maria Sakkari in the semi-finals, it's understood that it will be after the new Women’s Tennis Association rankings are released that her new position will be made official. 

This comes after Emma started 2021 ranked world no. 345 and she reached the US Open in September ranked world no.150 by the WTA after an impressive performance at Wimbledon in July. 

Tennis champion Emma Raducanu hugging her trophy after US Open victory

(Image credit: Photo by J. Conrad Williams. Jr./Newsday RM via Getty Images)

What has Virginia Wade said about Emma Raducanu? 

Virginia Wade was amongst those cheering Emma Raducanu on to victory in the US Open final on September 11. Watching from the stands at the Flushing Meadows court, Virginia looked incredibly proud as Emma was interviewed on-stage after becoming the new champion, with the camera often panning to the retired star. 

Now Virginia has spoken out to compare Emma’s talents with that of fellow tennis greats as she reflected on this year’s extraordinary final, as well as the path Emma took in the Grand Slam.

Emma Raducanu of Great Britain celebrates with the US Open winner's trophy after her victory over Leylah Fernandez

(Image credit: Photo by TPN/Getty Images)

As reported by The Independent, Virginia opened up from her home on Long Island, telling the PA News Agency, “When you think about what she’s done, to be a qualifier and win all those matches in a row and being so young, it’s just exceptional.”

She continued, “It’s more than exceptional. It’s something that when she’s out of her tennis career she can look back and think, ‘Oh my goodness, was that really possible?’ It really is an impossible success that she’s had.”

And when it comes to the matter of surrendering her position as the last British woman to win the US Open, it seems Virginia is more than happy for Emma to have taken up the mantle and followed in her tennis footsteps.

“I’ve always said the fact that I won the US Open, that was quite a feather in my cap, but it wasn’t that I was the last British winner that was making me proud,” she explained. 

Leylah Annie Fernandez (2nd L) of Canada holds the runner-up trophy as Emma Raducanu of Great Britain holds the championship trophy alongside Billie Jean King (R) and Stacey Allaster

(Image credit: Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

She went on to share, “In tennis or in anything you can’t expect there to be a real, legitimate star every year or every two years. When you think of the young stars that there have been all the way back to Maureen Connolly, their reputations went ahead of them – if it was Chris Evert or Tracy Austin, and certainly Martina [Navratilova] and Steffi [Graf].

"Steffi was brilliant at 18. She just came on the scene and you knew she was going to just keep going forward winning everything. And of course Serena,” she continued.

Though this is something Virginia feels is similar with Emma, disclosing, “You get the same sort of feeling with Emma that she’s just better than her contemporaries and better than probably a lot of her seniors and she’s the exception who’s going to go forward.”

Emma Raducanu of Great Britain celebrates with the championship trophy

(Image credit: Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

The retired tennis star also described Emma as handling herself with “tremendous poise” despite the media and crowd attention.

“It’s going to be a massive change for her. She had a little feel of that at Wimbledon suddenly being very much in the public eye and people knowing her but now she’s on every single front page and she got a message from The Queen,” she explained, before giving the backstory behind a sweet photograph of the two players hugging at the Flushing Meadows stadium.

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Virginia revealed, “After about 10 minutes she came off the court with all the [security] guards and I said, ‘Emma, can we have a hug please?’ She said, ‘Of course’, so we were all lining up for hugs. She would have hugged the whole stadium I think. It was lovely.”

As Emma Raducanu enjoys her recent victory, Virginia Wade will no doubt take a great interest in her future career achievements too. 

Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Royal Editor with eight years experience working in publishing. Her specialist areas include the British Royal Family, ranging from protocol to outfits. Alongside putting her royal knowledge to good use , Emma knows all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV and more. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, Emma enjoys cooking, long walks and watching yet more crime dramas!