Emma Raducanu’s US Open win epitomises the importance of investing in women’s sport.
The 18-year-old’s straight set victory against Leylah Fernandez topped off three weeks of Raducanu constantly defying odds. Raducanu came to New York as a qualifier and stormed the slam breaking several records along the way.
Her victory was watched by over 9 million viewers at its peak as the game was aired on Channel 4. The final was watched by more people than this year’s Championship at Wimbledon. It was also Channel 4’s most successful day of viewership since the London Paralympics in 2012.
On a sheer surface level, the numbers speak for themselves. The exposure that the final got will do wonders for women’s tennis and women’s sport. Not only did people have the opportunity to cheer on one of our own, but they were provided with a showcase of some of the highest quality tennis.
If you can see it, you can be it
Without even understanding the financial implications of such exposure, there is absolutely no doubt that the final has inspired and informed so many people. Women’s sport has been crying out for such exposure for years because after all, you have to see it to be it.
Emma Raducanu’s triumph is just one piece of a much larger puzzle. Her triumph which was viewed by millions has shown that women’s sport is a worthy investment. Not only will people watch it, they will come in their millions breaking viewing records along the way.
If you can see it, you can be it.
Visibility is crucial for women’s sport.
Well done @C4Sport for bringing these teen sensations and the @usopen final to 📺 screens across 🇬🇧. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 https://t.co/U31xcgXUOK
— judy murray (@JudyMurray) September 11, 2021
Consistent exposure has been a priority for women’s sport for so long and it looks like it’s finally becoming a reality. Women’s football in Scotland and England is at its biggest and best this season. Sky Sports has become the home of the Women’s Super League in England while SWPL1 games will be televised regularly on BBC Scotland and BBC Alba.
Women’s sport has never been lesser, it has just been treated as such. Channel 4’s last minute deal with Amazon to televise the final epitomises that women’s sport deserves to be appreciated in it’s own right and not just as an add on to the male events.
Inspiring this generation and beyond
People didn’t just watch Raducanu’s final, they lived it. They lived it from their sofas as they cheered on the trailblazing tennis star. Raducanu captured the attention of the entire nation, not just sports fans.
This is even more extraordinary when you consider she did this solo. Of course, she has a team behind-the-scenes, but on the court all the pressure falls to her. She handled the pressure and proved certain naysayers wrong.
Raducanu’s tournament will have inspired athletes from all different sports, girls and boys. But, this victory feels like a win for women’s sport as we so often have to prove ourselves beyond expectations.
Studies have found that girls are less likely to continue playing sports as they get older. This has been put down to lack of funding, access to facilities, personal barriers (body-image, sexuality, etc.) and the male-dominated culture of sport.
There is a clear institutional problem that places women’s sport at a disadvantage. Emma Raducanu’s victory will show young girls that sport is for them whether that is as a hobby or as a career.
I have no doubt that the number of girls taking up tennis lessons will now sky rocket. But these girls will only be able to achieve success like Raducanu if they are supported by sport’s governing bodies.
Determination and resilience
Female athletes are often forced to answer questions about their sport in regards to being a woman. After becoming Team GB’s most decorated female Olympian, Laura Kenny was asked how she does it as well as being a mother. Her husband, Jason Kenny, who is also a multi-gold winning Olympic medalist sat beside her during the interview and was not questioned how he manages to juggle parenthood and his sport.
Football pundits, like Alex Scott, trend on Twitter as viewers question her sporting credibility despite her being a former professional footballer whose knowledge is second to none.
These examples are rooted in ignorance and misogyny but they only make women stronger and more determined. But why should women have to prove people wrong? Or, prove their own sporting ability just because they’re a woman?
Emma Raducanu’s victory highlights that female athletes deserve to be, and should be, treated with the respect they deserve. Raducanu’s endurance to win her first Grand Slam without dropping a set, even throughout qualifying, is momentous and deserves to be celebrated.
Her achievement proves that women can, and will, continue to dominate sport not in spite of their womanhood, but because of it.