Tennis legend Maria Sharapova has advised US Open winner Emma Raducanu to “enjoy every single moment” of her new-found success.
Raducanu was propelled to international stardom in September after becoming the first ever qualifier, male or female, to earn a Grand Slam title, and Britain’s first female Grand Slam winner since Virginia Wade in 1977.
The 19-year-old defeated Leylah Fernandez in the final at Flushing Meadows, not dropping a single set throughout the tournament.
Following her improbable victory at the US Open, Raducanu has reaped the benefits of her success. She attended the Met Gala and the James Bond premiere, starred in a Sports Direct advert, and became an ambassador for Dior and Tiffany and Co.
Some have been critical of Raducanu’s behaviour, with England men’s rugby team head coach Eddie Jones claiming the star had been distracted by success.
But, in an interview with The Telegraph, Sharapova told Raducanu to enjoy the opportunities coming her way.
“You learn through it,” Sharapova said. “When [you’re young] and you succeed and become a champion, there are certainly going to be opportunities off court that come your way.
“Emma is an incredible athlete, what she has achieved at such a young age is very rare in the sports world and she has to enjoy every single moment of it.”
The 34-year-old had a similar experience to Raducanu at the beginning of her career, winning Wimbledon in 2004 when she was just 17-years-old.
She went on to win the US Open in 2006, the Australian Open in 2008, and claimed two French Open titles in 2012 and 2014 respectively.
The Russian retired from tennis last year with five Grand Slam titles to her name. Her career was somewhat tainted by a failed drugs test in 2016, for which she served a 15 month suspension.
“From my own experience at a young age, winning Wimbledon came so unexpectedly I never thought that I was physically ready to win seven matches in a 14-day period,” Sharapova said.
“I was a prodigy from a young age and I had the prospects and I was getting better and better, but I didn’t think that I was ready to win a Grand Slam. When that happens, it’s incredibly overwhelming, you still can’t quite believe it.
“Emma and her family will cherish that beautiful feeling forever, because it is all so exciting. You’re thinking, did that really just happen?”
Raducanu last played on Sunday, during an exhibition event at the Royal Albert Hall. The world number 19 beat Romania’s Elena-Gabriela Ruse 6-3, 7-6.
She will now fly out to the Middle East to continue her pre-season training, spending Christmas there, before travelling on to Australia for her third Grand Slam tournament.