Emma Raducanu's former primary school teacher reveals heartfelt letter from youngster
Teenage tennis sensation Emma Raducanu is just one match away from becoming the first British woman to reach a grand slam final in 44 years.
After a storming run of eight matches – during which she hasn’t even lost a set – she is the first ever qualifier to reach the US Open semifinals and had to win qualifying matches just to make sure of her spot in the first round.
The 18-year-old had only just sat her A-levels when she reached Wimbledon’s fourth round in July, and if she defeats Greece's Maria Sakkari in the early hours of Friday she will prepare for the chance to emulate Virginia Wade, the last British woman to win a grand slam final.
But years before her final secondary school exams, she attended Bickley Primary School, and staff there noticed her talent from an early age.
Since then, her former teacher Rebecca Rodger said she had kept track of Raducanu's burgeoning career and that the sport star "is still the same girl I recognise from when she started school".
Ms Rodger also revealed a letter a much-younger Raducanu had written to her, thanking her for teaching her during her time in her class.
"Dear Miss Catchpole," the letter reads.
"Thank you for all your help and everything! I enjoid [sic] all your lessons. Love from Emma."
Raducanu still has the same character traits as she did as a child, Ms Rodger told ITV News, saying that even as a youngster the British number one was humble, determined and lacking in ego.
'She was way and above everybody else'
“I am so proud of her, it’s been lovely to see how she is still the same girl I recognise from when she started school,” she said.
“Still very determined, very grounded, still wants to achieve really well and you can still see in her that little girl that I knew.
“It’s been amazing and I’m sure she’s going to go on and achieve even greater things.”
Wade herself, who was there to watch Raducanu overcome Shelby Rogers earlier this week, shares Ms Rodger’s optimism for her future.
Virginia Wade: 'She should be set up there with the top girls for a long time.'
Quizzed on whether the teenager can go all the way and win the US Open Wade said she was “sure” she would.
“If not this year, it really doesn't matter. This year doesn't matter. She will, I'm sure,” she said.
“There's so many good players around these days, there's no guarantee that if you're winning now you're going to be winning tomorrow.
“It's not the end of the world if she doesn't win this year, but why not? If she can - why not.”
But standing in her way is powerful server Sakkari, who is eight years Raducanu’s senior and 132 places higher in the world rankings.
Sakkari has more than earned her spot in the last four, having defeated three-time grand slam champion Katerina Siniakova, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and most recently world number four Karolina Pliskova in straight sets.
Sakkari’s experience is vastly greater than Raducanu’s, who only made her first WTA Tour main draw appearance at this year’s Nottingham Open.
She lost 6-4 6-3 to compatriot Harriet Dart in the first round before making the quarter-finals of a lower-level tournament at the same venue the following week.
That persuaded Wimbledon to offer her a wild card into the main draw and she went on to become the youngest British woman to reach the second week at SW19 in the Open era.
But Raducanu, who could be confirmed at Britain’s number one as early as Monday, is staying relaxed and trying to make the most of every day she has in the tournament.
“I didn’t expect to be here at all. I think my flights were booked at the end of qualifying, so it’s a nice problem to have,” she said.
“I’m just really enjoying the experience.”