Meet the Suffolk tennis legend who had a similar rise to Emma Raducanu

Christine Truman and Emma Raducanu

Christine Truman, who won a Grand Slam aged 18 and also reached the final of the US Open, has some strong words of encouragement for Emma Raducanu - Credit: Denise Bradley

Emma Raducanu is the nation's darling after her US Open win - but those with long memories know she is not the first British 18-year-old tennis star to win a Grand Slam.

More than 60 years ago, Christine Truman Janes - who now lives in Aldeburgh - had a remarkably similar rise to fame after winning the French Open in equally sensational style.

Christine Truman and Emma Raducanu

Christine Truman, left, when she won the French Open aged 18, had a remarkably similar rise to Emma Raducanu - Credit: PA/Library

Even though she played with a wooden racket and there was no 24/7 internet media to cope with, she was still catapulted to national fame which changed her life forever.

Now aged 80, the legend of the game says she hopes to be able to meet the young rising star - and if she does, it's likely she could offer a few tips about being a teenage champion.

Great Britain's Emma Raducanu in action against Greece's Maria Sakkari during the women's semi final

Christine Truman believes Emma Raducanu has the talent and the determination needed to be a top competitor - Credit: PA

'She's got that certain something'

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Even though Raducanu's meteoric rise looks like it came from nowhere, Truman knows the truth is very different.

Like Truman, Raducanu began playing tennis as a small girl - constantly honing her skills over many hours of practise on the court.

Still an active player at Aldeburgh Tennis Club in her ninth decade, Truman picked out a 15-year-old Raducanu as a rising star in an interview with this newspaper in 2018.

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"It comes out of the blue for many, but it's something she's dreamed of and she's worked for - as it was for me," said Truman, who moved to Aldeburgh in her retirement having regularly holidayed to Suffolk in her youth.

"I think she's got that certain something that's special.

"As well as having talent, she's got determination and desire. She's prepared to work and has planned for this moment.

"Some people have that certain something that urges them on and spurs them on to be something special. The hard work is enjoyable, rather than a chore."

Christine Truman playing at Wimbledon in the 1950s.

Truman playing at Wimbledon in the 1950s - Credit: Archant

A different age - but some things never change

Truman says that: "A lot of things have changed since I was 18, but there are some things that never change."

The equipment was certainly different, with the pace of the game generally accepted to be much faster today than it was back then.

While Raducanu's win and the likely subsequent sponsorship deals are set to make her millions of pounds, sports stars of the 1960s did not enjoy the enormous wealth they do today.

"I can't imagine being a millionaire at 18 - but then I wasn't brought up to know the sponsorship deals," Truman said.

However, she warned that fame and fortune can be a double-edged sword.

"Fame does change your life," she said.

British tennis player, Christine Truman, with the runner up plate she won at the US Open in 1959, at

Christine Truman with the runner-up plate she won at the US Open in 1959 - Credit: Denise Bradley

"It means you're no longer living in an unknown bubble. Everyone knows who you are.

"It can be flattering to be recognised, but it's not always what you want. You want to have a bit of privacy. She will want to have a private life.

"Fame is going to alter her life. Maybe she will be protected, but there's a limit to how much you can be protected.

"There will be demand from people to see her. If she goes to buy a loaf of bread, there will be people who recognise her and want to speak to her.

"Sometimes you long just to be able to go out and not be recognised."

Truman remembers one incident where she went to chemist and was told by a member of the public that she should wear more make-up.

"People will make personal remarks, because they feel they know you," she said.

Truman also says she "didn't have financial sponsorship where there are obligations imposed".

While the invites for glitzy film premieres and awards ceremonies flooded in, Truman could decide for herself whether to go or have a night in.

British tennis player, Christine Truman, at her home in Aldeburgh. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Christine Truman at her home in Aldeburgh - Credit: Denise Bradley

Raducanu may be in a position where sponsorship deals and contracts require her to attend certain events - but Truman believes the teenager will adapt to it all.

"The money is huge and possibly a carrot for many, but I don't think money is the priority," she said.

"Nothing changes that desire to win and get to the top."

Determination, Truman says, is the thing that makes the very top sportspeople stand out - whatever period they are playing in.

Great Britain's Emma Raducanu celebrates at Flushing Meadows

Like all sportsmen and women, Emma Raducanu will face setbacks - but Christine Truman is confident she can bounce back from any losses - Credit: PA

What next for Raducanu?

Truman says there is "nothing more motivating than success", particularly at such a young age.

After her win at the French Open in the summer of 1959, she went in as the top seeded player at Wimbledon.

"It seemed like I couldn't lose," she said.

But she suffered a surprise loss to Hungarian Zsuzsi Kormoczy in the fourth round - the very person she had triumphed over in the French Open final just weeks earlier.

"I was lulled into a false sense of security," she said.

British tennis player, Christine Truman, at her home in Aldeburgh. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Tennis today is very different to when Christine Truman played in the 1950s, 60s and 70s - but determination is still key to success - Credit: Denise Bradley

"But I came back again to get to the final of the US Open. 

"It didn't set me back - I just kept going and going."

Of Raducanu, Truman said: "People will expect her to win. She will no longer be the underdog.

"However, she will have losses along the way.

"There will still be times when players will play better than her on that day - and it feels like the whole world comes crashing down."

How Raducanu responds to setbacks will be crucial, said Truman - who has previously said her own disappointments, such as losing the 1961 Wimbledon final, are “all part of life’s rich tapestry”.

Christine Janes (nee Truman) with the - small - replica trophy she received for her triumph in Paris

Truman with a small replica trophy she received for winning the French Open - Credit: Archant

Truman's coach once told her: "Rome wasn't built in a day, but it was destroyed in a day" - a sign that you constantly have to keep working.

In the past, she has also shared a piece of crucial advice given to her by three-time Wimbledon champion Fred Perry: “If you lose a match because you missed a shot, go out there and practise that shot so you never miss it again.”

Lady tennis star in action

Raducanu's victory will be inspiring for young people across the country - Credit: PA

A boost for tennis - and young people

Truman believes that Raducanu's victory is "good timing, especially for British tennis".

She added: "Girls' tennis had been dropping off. Women's tennis will be uplifted by Emma's performance."

Raducanu could take the mantle of the Williams sisters in being a figurehead for women's tennis - but perhaps even more importantly, Truman believes the teenager gives young people hope..

"Where boys and girls are made to feel that things are a long way off, for her to reach this height will show it's not impossible and it's not out of reach," she said.

"If they practise hard and work hard, maybe they can do what Emma is doing.

"This will be a huge uplift for the game and so many girls and boys."

British tennis player, Christine Truman, at her home in Aldeburgh. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Christine Truman's professional career dates back to the 1950s - Credit: Denise Bradley

Factfile: Christine Truman

  • 1941 - born in Woodford Green, Essex
  • 1957 - debuts at Wimbledon, aged 16
  • 1959 - wins French Open, aged 18
  • 1961 - reaches Wimbledon final
  • 1967 - marries former Wasps rugby player Gerry Janes
  • 1975 - retires from tennis and becomes a commentator
  • 1984 - moves to Aldeburgh
  • 2001 - made an MBE for services to sport
  • 2011 - publishes first in a series of children’s books

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