Monday, January 30, 2023
HomeSportEmma Raducanu's old British rival eyeing new milestone after stunning rise -...

Emma Raducanu's old British rival eyeing new milestone after stunning rise – EXCLUSIVE


Sonay Kartal might not be a name familiar to the casual tennis fan, but she enjoyed one of the biggest rises in British tennis behind the scenes this year as she hurtled more than 600 places up the rankings and got to make her Grand Slam debut. Having spent her childhood battling Emma Raducanu for titles, the 21-year-old is on the up after getting unlucky with injuries and admitted she stunned even her own coaches this year while sharing her 2023 goals with Express Sport.

In a year that saw the likes of Jack Draper make his top 50 debut and Harriet Dart earn her first top 10 win, Kartal was busy plugging away and achieving her own goals – getting called up for the Billie Jean King Cup squad before making both her Grand Slam debut and WTA Tour debut in the summer. Now sitting at No 199 in the world after starting the year at No 864, the Brighton native spoke to Express Sport and reflected on her year as she set a clear goal for next season after exceeding her own expectations.

“I think my season was kind of a shock to everyone. Including my coaches,” the British No 7 said, speaking exclusively to Express Sport. “This time last year I think I was ranked like 900, I think I jumped about 500 spots in maybe three, four weeks. So I think throughout the whole year I was literally just soaking it in and kind of learning as I was going.”

Explaining just how she raced through her bucket list for the season and achieved a series of unexpected milestones, the 21-year-old continued: “For me, doing Billie Jean King Cup, that was one of my dreams growing up, I just never thought I was going to have the chance to do it this early on in my career. Wimbledon and US Open, they’re obviously goals of mine but I figured they weren’t even realistic goals for me this year at the time. So they weren’t even on the calendar this year for me.

JUST IN: Auger-Aliassime receives warm Toni Nadal message after Davis Cup win

“I think everything just happened so quickly and I was just going, ‘Okay, my goal would be to end the year top 500’ and then once I achieved that I was like ‘Okay, I’ll go down to the next hundred’, so I was kind of just going down in hundreds and I don’t think I expected myself to finish I think I’m around like 200 now.” And she now has one clear goal in mind for 2023, adding: “Next year my goal is definitely to finish inside the top 100, I think that’s definitely the biggest goal for me going forward.”

After receiving a wildcard for Wimbledon, Kartal then surprised herself by earning a spot into the US Open qualifying event off her own back, but the six-time ITF title winner admitted that it was her BJK Cup call-up that was the biggest highlight. “I mean for me, team events are my favourite events. Growing up playing the junior Great Britain matches, that was always the highlight throughout my year, and I’d always watched them on TV in the previous years,” she explained.

The world No 199 said she was “at ease” being surrounded by her friends in Raducanu, Dart and Katie Swan for what was her debut at the World Cup of women’s tennis, and also had some extra special supporters at the tie, adding: “Also for me it was special because all my coaches, they flew out to Prague as well. So they were there to experience that moment with me, and my coaches have been with me since I was six, they’re the ones that kind of got me into it.

DON’T MISS
Emma Raducanu named with Serena Williams and Adele in latest accolade
Zverev fires comeback warning to rivals after losing ‘lifetime goal’
Federer shares latest post-retirement plans after injury confession

“I loved absolutely everything about it and at the end of that week I was just emotionally drained and I lost my voice.” Another “pinch me” moment for Kartal came after the US Open, where she managed to earn a surprise last-minute spot in the qualifying draw, as she explained: “Everything for me happened so fast that I was just not really reflecting on it and I think the time I really sat back like ‘Wow’ was when I was in the US.

“I was just with my coach and my best friend who was at uni over there, and we were just hitting in Manhattan and I was like, ‘This is crazy’. From where I was last year to now, the fact that I’m 20 and I’m playing the US Open, and also knowing that I got into the US Open off my own back, with my own ranking.” 

If she can achieve her goal of a top 100 debut next year, Kartal could put herself in a position to get into all of the Grand Slam main draws off her own ranking, but the Brighton local also had another reason for wanting to hit the milestone as she explained the struggles that she faced when ranked around 500 in the world, entering “three tournaments in one week” and waiting until the last minute to see which one she could get into.

“I just kind of want to get myself into the top 100 because then at that point you kind of know what your calendar is and what tournaments you’re going to be playing so you’ve got a bit more of a structure in your year,” she said.

“I mean to be playing a full calendar year, all four Grand Slams, that’s definitely the goal as well – whether that be qualifying or main draw. I think at 21 I’d be happy to be qualifying for all of the Slams as well. So that’s just definitely the goal, the higher you get, the more structure you can have to your year.”



RELATED ARTICLES

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisment -

Most Popular

Recent Comments