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Emma Raducanu's Hot Dates: A Fast Car and Serena Williams
The US Open champion just learned to drift and then pulled the Serena Williams lottery ticket in Cincinnati, getting to play the legend before she retires. It's the perfect crescendo to the teenager's dream year.
Published Aug 14, 2022
As Emma Raducanu enters the home stretch of her Cinderella-story year as the US Open champion, the pinch-me opportunities that accompany sudden fame are still coming fast and furiously—none more so than her high-speed spin around the Porsche Experience Centre at Silverstone that she revealed this week.
Even after a year of red carpets and royal meetups, learning to drift still registered as a pure thrill for the teenage Briton who loves Formula 1 and did some competitive karting as a pre-teen. As a Porsche ambassador, she got the chance to get behind the wheel of a 911 Carrera S, which can go almost 200 miles per hour, and learn drifts and donuts on a specialized racetrack in England.
As part of the joyride, Raducanu drove on surfaces that simulate icy and snowy roads. It got even better when FIA Hall of Famer and nine-time Grand Prix champion Mark Webber joined her, riding shotgun and giving pointers.
“It is like playing a tennis match,” Raducanu said, “learning where to push and how to work with the car to get the best results.”
The spot was filmed before the world No. 10 headed across the pond to prepare for her US Open defense—which will include another monumental milestone when she plays Serena Williams in the opening round of Cincinnati next week.
The blockbuster match was revealed when the Western & Southern Open released the draw on Friday. Raducanu is one of many young players who have yet to face Williams, and whose opportunity will disappear once she retires after the US Open.
Scoring one of the precious remaining chances to play the queen fits with the script of Raducanu's charmed year, a cherry on top of her Slam sundae. She hasn’t reacted publicly to the Cincinnati draw, but if she's like world No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who also hasn’t played Williams, it's exciting news.
Besides Raducanu and Swiatek, seven other current members of the WTA Top 20 haven’t gotten to face Williams: Anett Kontaveit, Paula Badosa, Coco Gauff, Ons Jabeur, Leylah Annie Fernandez, Veronika Kudermetova, and Barbora Krejcikova.
Jabeur played alongside Williams as a double partner at Eastbourne in June, when Williams dipped a toe back into competition before entering Wimbledon.
Before Wimbledon, Badosa offered up a reality check about the “opportunity” to play the ever-fearsome Williams before she retires.
"Of course, I don't want to play against her," Badosa said. "No one wants to play against Serena and less on grass."
Raducanu might feel the same way. She lost in the first round of the National Bank Open in Toronto this week and surely hopes to find some form in Cincinnati before heading to New York. Playing Williams is something to tell the grandkids about, but Raducanu might prefer an easier opponent over a good story.
Raducanu and Williams will headline Monday's night session at the Western & Southern Open. We’ll find out how each woman feels about the match then. For the tennis world, it's almost too good to be true—similar to winning 23 Grand Slams or the US Open as a qualifier.