Emma Raducanu’s childhood rival Sonay Kartal has given her take on the criticism the 20-year-old has faced since her historic victory at the 2021 US Open. The British No 7 exclusively discussed her old foe’s rise with Express Sport and praised Raducanu for inspiring her peers.
Before Raducanu was making tennis history as the first-ever qualifier to win a Grand Slam trophy at the 2021 US Open, she was doing battle with fellow Brit Kartal in youth tournaments as the pair faced off in finals almost every week during their childhood days. The pair followed separate paths as they made it onto the pro tour after the current world No 206 was hampered by injuries but they reunited earlier this year at the Billie Jean King Cup and have enjoyed a good relationship, both training at the National Tennis Centre over the off-season.
Having known the British No 1 for years, the Brighton local had her own thoughts on witnessing her old rival’s every move be put under a microscope and hit back at Raducanu’s critics as she suggested that last year’s US Open winner would be able to rise above the noise. “I think obviously, with what she’s done she’s obviously now in the spotlight and I think being so young, it’s probably something that she hasn’t really had the cameras on her like she does now,” the 21-year-old exclusively told Express Sport.
“I think it’s definitely tough for her and everything she does, there’s an opinion on.” One aspect of her game that the world No 76 has been blasted for is her record with coaches, as she recently appointed her fifth trainer in the space of 18 months after enlisting Sebastian Sachs on a trial period.
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There have been constant rumours that Raducanu’s family is behind the decision-making, are tough to please and brutal with their decision to quickly axe coaches that aren’t working but Kartal rubbished the idea that the 20-year-old had a poor support system. The six-time ITF title winner added: “I’ve seen her team, I know she’s got really good people around her that are helping her, supporting her.
“So I think given what she has done, it was kind of expected that she was going to be criticised on everything. But I think she’s just going to become used to it and used to having people look at her 24/7 trying to pick something out. It’s a part of the sport isn’t it, it’s a part of anything. So it’s just unfortunately one of the factors of being a top tennis player.”
The 21-year-old also shared what it was like finally being reunited with her former foe earlier this year, when both Kartal and Raducanu were called up to Britain’s BJK Cup squad for the first time during their qualifier tie in Prague. “Yeah I think when we kind of separated at 13, 14 I was unlucky with injuries so I hadn’t seen her for years,” the British No 7 explained.
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“So BJK Cup was the first time I had really kind of seen her because she was off playing and I was doing my other things, trying to get myself healthy so that was really nice to get to see her then and just kind of catching up.” And Kartal also said she was one of many players who was inspired by Raducanu’s unprecedented victory at last year’s US Open after revealing that her goal for 2023 was to break into the world’s top 100 after going from No 864 to No 199 in the space of 10 months this season.
Giving her take on Raducanu’s 10-match run to the US Open title through qualifying, Karta said: “I think that her story last year was incredible and I think it did inspire so many of us, just knowing that this is someone who was our age, who was at the time at a similar ranking.
“And if she can go and do it then it’s definitely achievable and obviously it’s very intimidating knowing you’ve got to come through qualifying and do all kind of that stuff but yeah, I think she inspired loads of young girls but she also inspired her peers.”