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New star of tennis prompts UK debate

Editorial

The surprise US Open tennis win by Emma Raducanu has implications beyond sport, with a debate brewing on how it might impact on multiculturalism in Britain.

Supporters of inclusiveness in the UK could not have found a better poster girl than Raducanu, whose parents are Romanian and Chinese. She was born in Canada and came to England when she was aged two.

After her victory she tweeted a picture of herself holding the Union Jack and US Open trophy, with the words “We are taking her HOMEEE”.

Congratulations flooded in from a long list including the Queen and British footballer Marcus Rashford who earned an MBE for his work against inequality. Even Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage joined in, but critics were quick to point out earlier statements he made about “eye-watering” crime statistics for Romanians and that he would be concerned if some moved next door to him. It drew a witty response from footballer Gary Lineker that he would not be able to afford to live next to Raducanu so shouldn't worry.

Sport England board member Chris Grant welcomed positive coverage from parts of the media that were hostile to migrants seeking refuge from danger. But he added that the focus should be on Raducanu herself rather than what she did or did not represent, and “we have to be careful about what we place on the shoulders of individuals”.

Sunder Kaewala of British Future, a think-tank that promotes debate about immigration and integration, said Raducanu's ease with her heritage was typical of her generation but warned people with liberal views against using her as a “Gotcha” argument. Similar views were expressed by Wanda Wyporska the executive director of the Equality Trust, who was wary of holding her up as an example of successful immigrant integration.

There have already been some concerns about Raducanu's mental health following her decision to withdraw from Wimbledon, and the example of Naomi Osaka who has withdrawn from all tennis at present shows the potential danger of too much pressure on young sports people. Raducanu is still only 18.

One thing for certain is that Raducanu will become very wealthy. The nine highest paid female sportspeople are all tennis players; Maria Sharapova headed the women's earning list for 11 years.

The first British woman to win a grand slam in 44 years, Raducanu is a marketer's dream. But let's hope the team around her has the expertise needed to help her deal with the pressures lying ahead.