Emma Raducanu wins the Laureus World Breakthrough award after her fairytale US Open triumph last year that catapulted the British teen to global fame… as Olympic heroes Sky Brown and Bethany Shriever also pick up prizes

  • British tennis star Raducanu honoured by Laureus after her US Open triumph
  • 19-year-old claimed the World Breakthrough of the Year award on Sunday night
  • Raducanu shot to stardom by winning in New York in just her second Grand Slam
  • British Olympic medallists Sky Brown and Bethany Shriever also won awards
  • Max Verstappen and Elaine Thompson-Herah scooped the top Laureus prizes 

British tennis sensation Emma Raducanu has won the Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Award following her incredible US Open triumph in 2021.

Raducanu, 19, became the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam tournament in the Open Era when she defeated Leylah Fernandez in what became known as ‘The Fairytale of New York’ last September.

Some 9.2 million people in the United Kingdom watched live on Channel 4 as Raducanu became the first British woman to win a Grand Slam singles title since Virginia Wade won at Wimbledon in 1977.

Raducanu collected the prestigious Laureus award in a virtual ceremony hosted from Seville in Spain.

She said: ‘It’s been a great year for me. Thank you to all the Laureus Academy members for voting for me. I really want to congratulate all the other nominees too.’

Emma Raducanu poses with her Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year award after claiming the accolade on Sunday night. It follows her stunning US Open triumph last year

British tennis star Raducanu won the US Open as a qualifier in the ‘Fairytale of New York’

The 19-year-old was catapulted to instant fame following her incredible win last September

Raducanu wasn’t the only British athlete to pick up a Laureus gong on Sunday night. 13-year-old Sky Brown, who won skateboarding bronze for Great Britain at last year’s Tokyo Olympics, claimed the Laureus World Comeback of the Year award.

In May 2020, while training in California, she suffered several skull fractures and a broken wrist and hand following a fall from a halfpipe ramp. Her father said afterwards she was ‘lucky to be alive’.

Despite this major setback, Brown recovered and finished on the podium in Tokyo 15 months later, becoming Great Britain’s youngest-ever medal winner at the Olympics.

British BMX racer Bethany Shriever, who claimed gold in Tokyo, won the Laureus Action Sportsperson of the Year award after a vote.

British Olympic skateboarder Sky Brown, 13, poses with her Breakthrough of the Year award

British Olympic gold medallist Bethany Shriever won the Action Sportsperson prize

The 22-year-old teaching assistant from Leytonstone in east London had to crowdfund £50,000 to finance her own qualification campaign for Tokyo after UK Sport cut its support.

But Shriever won both Olympic and World Championship gold medals last year and was awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours list.

Meanwhile, Formula One world champion Max Verstappen and Jamaican sprint star Elaine Thompson-Herah won the Laureus World Sportsman and World Sportswoman awards respectively.

The Italy football team that beat England to win the European Championship last summer was voted Team of the Year. 

Formula One world champion Max Verstappen was voted World Sportsman of the Year

Jamaican sprint queen Elaine Thompson-Herah, who won three golds in Tokyo, was voted the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year

Italy, who beat England to win Euro 2020 last summer, were crowned Laureus Team of the Year

Raducanu, who was born in Toronto, Canada but raised in the Kent town of Bromley, was a complete unknown to everyone except the most devoted tennis aficionados at the beginning of 2021.

With most tournaments cancelled amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Raducanu concentrated on her A-Level studies while training with coach Nigel Sears, the father-in-law of British hero Andy Murray.

Her debut in the main draw of a WTA Tour event came at the Nottingham Open in June last year and she exited in the first round.

The teenager then burst onto the scene at Wimbledon, becoming, at 18 years and 239 days old, the youngest British woman to reach the last-16 of the London Slam in the Open Era.

However, overcome by breathing difficulties and sickness, Raducanu retired in the second set of her fourth round match with Ajla Tomljanovic.

Raducanu retired from her fourth round match at Wimbledon last year after suffering sickness

Raducanu was criticised in some quarters for not having the physical and mental strength to compete at the highest level but any doubts were comprehensively dispelled at her next Slam appearance.

She had to battle through three qualifying rounds in New York to reach the main draw but did so without dropping a single set.

As Raducanu fever slowly ramped up back home, she defeated Stefanie Vogele, Zhang Shuai, Sara Sorribes Tormo, Shelby Rogers, Belinda Bencic and Maria Sakkari – all without losing a set – to reach the final against all odds.

There, she beat fellow teenager Fernandez 6-4 6-3, sealing victory with a 109mph ace. The win saw Raducanu leap to No 23 in the world rankings, an astonishing rise of 332 places from the start of the year.

Raducanu reacts in delight and disbelief after winning the US Open final last September

Her Australian Open campaign ended in disappointment as she struggled with hand blisters

Raducanu also became an overnight global star, signing lucrative endorsement deals with luxury brands Tiffany & Co and Dior, as well as Evian, British Airways, Vodafone and Porsche.

Sponsorship experts estimated that Raducanu could earn anything up to £1billion in endorsement deals if she enjoys a successful career. 

But Raducanu hasn’t yet been able to match the highs of that New York win. She suffered from a bout of Covid-19 at the end of last year and suffered from a blister on her racquet hand when she lost at the Australian Open in January. 

There were more encouraging signs on Friday despite a defeat to world No 1 Iga Swiatek at the Stuttgart Open as Raducanu prepares for her first French Open and Wimbledon later in the summer.

Emma Raducanu in action at the Stuttgart Open this week, where she lost to Iga Swiatek 

Laureus winners in full

Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award: Max Verstappen

Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award: Elaine Thompson-Herah

Laureus World Team of the Year Award: Italy Men’s Football Team

Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Award: Emma Raducanu

Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award: Sky Brown

Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability Award: Marcel Hug

Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year Award: Bethany Shriever

Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award: Tom Brady

Laureus Academy Exceptional Achievement Award: Robert Lewandowski

Laureus Sporting Icon Award: Valentino Rossi

Laureus Sport for Good Award: Lost Boyz Inc.

Laureus Sport for Good Society Award: Real Madrid Foundation

Laureus Athlete Advocate of the Year Award: Gerald Asamoah and the Black Eagles 

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