Raducanu dazzles crowd in Royal Albert Hall homecoming

The 19-year-old enjoyed a belated homecoming at the iconic Victorian concert hall 79 days since being crowned Britain's new tennis queen.

Britain's Emma Raducanu gestures as she plays Romania's Elena-Gabriela Ruse during their exhibition tennis match at the Royal Albert Hall, London, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021. (Zac Goodwin/PA via AP)   -  AP

London's Royal Albert Hall could hardly have provided a more fitting stage for Emma Raducanu's first appearance on a British tennis court since her astonishing U.S. Open triumph.

On Sunday, 79 days since an extraordinary run in New York culminated in victory over Canada's Leylah Fernandez and being crowned Britain's new tennis queen, the 19-year-old enjoyed a belated homecoming at the iconic Victorian concert hall.

The stakes were not as high for her exhibition match against Romanian Elena-Gabriela Ruse as when, as a qualifier ranked 150th in the world, she became Britain's first female Grand Slam champion for 44 years in September.

But, with respect to the former big names who have been gracing this week's Champions Tennis event, the packed lunchtime crowd had only come to see Raducanu, who has risen from obscurity to become one of the world's most marketable athletes.

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It was her first match on home soil since July when her dream Wimbledon debut came to an end in the fourth round after she retired with breathing difficulties against experienced Australian Ajla Tomljanovic.

There was no such drama this time in a light-hearted hit-around with her friend and regular practise partner Ruse, ranked 85th in the world.

The pair delighted spectators in the 150-year-old venue with some engaging rallies and jokes, with one young fan yelling "Emma will you marry me" in the third game.

Later Ruse handed her racket to a ball-boy who rallied with Raducanu and even managed to break serve after some nifty network.

Ruse avoided gatecrashing Raducanu's party and the home favourite produced some sparkling winners to triumph 6-3 7-6.

The serious business starts again now for Raducanu and new coach Torben Beltz as she prepares for the looming Australian where she will have a lot to live up to.

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