Emma Raducanu has partnered with Vodafone to become the brand’s grass-roots tennis ambassador, helping to inspire the next generation of players.
I think participation is key and for young players to have the opportunity to compete on a regular basis is very important. The new Play Your Way to Wimbledon competition for grass-roots players that has been created by Vodafone, the LTA and AELTC is good example of the opportunities out there. Emma Raducanu
As part of her role, Raducanu will become the face of Vodafone’s grass-roots tennis initiatives, with plans to use Vodafone connectivity to expand access to tennis for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities.
This includes the re-launched and expanded mass participation competition Play Your Way to Wimbledon, powered by Vodafone, formerly known as the Road to Wimbledon, which will be delivered in partnership by the LTA, the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, and Vodafone.
With entries now open, thousands of 14&U and 18&U players are set to take part in the initial stages held in clubs, parks and schools leading to county and regional finals in June and July.
The winners of these stages will progress to the national finals, taking place on Wimbledon’s Aorangi Courts in August.
They will also have the chance to immerse themselves in the true Wimbledon experience, competing in whites and touring the historic Grounds and Museum.
From 2023, the LTA and the All England Club are planning for the competition to expand further, including through the introduction of additional age groups and disability categories, which Vodafone is proud to support.
“Emma has captivated the nation over the last 18 months, delivering one of the most iconic British sporting moments in recent memory and inspiring a huge number of new players to pick up a racket for the first time,” Max Taylor, Vodafone Consumer Director, said.
“As the face of modern British tennis and a graduate of the LTA’s grassroots programme – which we are proud to now be supporting – Emma is the perfect person to champion the relaunch and expansion of Play Your Way to Wimbledon, powered by Vodafone, and our ambition to democratise the sport and connect a new generation of fans and players.”
There has already been good news for grass-roots tennis in the UK, with the 3 months after Raducanu’s Grand Slam win seeing more adults pick up a racket regularly than for the same period in any of the past 5 years.
Vodafone will work with Raducanu, the All England Club and the LTA to build on this ‘Raducanu Effect’ and help get more children and adults playing and enjoying tennis as they take part in the competition.
“I’m so excited to be working with Vodafone to inspire the next generation of tennis players in the UK,” Raducanu said. “The support I received at a grass-roots level has been key to my development as a player, and I’m looking forward to helping make these initiatives even bigger, better and more accessible.”
In a Q&A session for the launch, Raducanu discussed the importance of being a role model.
What have been the most important factors in your development as a player?
“There are many factors, but I put a lot of emphasis on the role my parents played in getting me to take part in so many sports from a young age and the mentality they helped shape,” she said. “As I grew up there was a great tournament system in place that allowed me to compete most weekends.
“The LTA have also supported me along the way, so I’m pleased to see Vodafone now play an important role with grassroots tennis.”
You’ve become an amazing role model for young players – how important is this to you?
“I’ve never really thought of myself as a role model to anyone!” Raducanu replied. “But whenever I hear that I’ve inspired children to play sport or motivated them, it makes me happy.
“I’m passionate about the next generation being active and taking part in many sports, particularly tennis, as it has given me so many amazing experiences.”
Are you proud to see how the women’s game has developed in this country?
“Women’s sport has grown a lot in recent years and tennis has always been a strong women’s sport,” she said. “It’s going from strength to strength and hopefully younger girls are encouraged even more to pick up a racket and compete.”
It’s an exciting upcoming year for you – what are your hopes and ambitions?
“My main goal is to see improvements in my game and look back knowing I’ve got better in certain areas,” Raducanu explained. “It’s my first year on tour so I’m very excited to have a full schedule and I’m sure I will have learned a lot by the end of the year.”
How can we help develop the next Emma Raducanu?
“I think participation is key and for young players to have the opportunity to compete on a regular basis is very important,” she said. “The new Play Your Way to Wimbledon competition for grass-roots players that has been created by Vodafone, the LTA and AELTC is good example of the opportunities out there.
Alfie Hewett is a 19-time Grand Slam Champion in wheelchair tennis, despite only being 24. How inspiring is it to see other young Brits setting the sport alight?
“Alfie has done incredibly well and is only going to keep going in my opinion. I think a lot of us help motivate each other. Andy was a great inspiration to me growing up. The determination and resilience he’s showing in his come-back is a great testament to his mental strength and grit, which he’s shown throughout his career.”
Off the court, Vodafone will use its network and superfast 5G to help Raducanu keep in touch with her family, friends and fans as she tours.
As a global citizen with a diverse heritage and fanbase, Raducanu has relationships all across the world and Vodafone’s technology will allow her to stay in touch with family, friends and fans as she travels.
Gus Henderson, Commercial Director at the All England Club, said: “We are delighted to work with the LTA and Vodafone to build on the strong heritage of the Road to Wimbledon, relaunching and expanding it to become the UK’s biggest individual mass participation competition.
“We hope that Play Your Way to Wimbledon helps to encourage more children to try tennis and develop a love of the game, with the chance to play on the grass courts at Wimbledon as a compelling inspiration factor.”
Oliver Scadgell, Participation Director at the LTA said: “By working with Vodafone and the All England Club on this competition, we’re continuing our vision to open up tennis and grow the sport at a grass roots level.
“The introduction of broader age groups and disability categories from 2023 is key to this objective and it’s hugely beneficial to have Emma’s support in encouraging participation.”
To mark the announcement, Vodafone used a time-slice rig and a bespoke racket threaded with electroluminescent (EL) wire to create a unique 360 degree ‘digital sculpture’ of Emma alongside grassroots player Katie Randall.
Popularised by the Matrix, and still used by national and international broadcasters as the cutting-edge of 360 filming, time-slice rigs use 120 different cameras and cutting-edge software, an example of Vodafone’s commitment to using the latest technology to support the next generation of tennis players.
A short launch film featuring Raducanu and Katie Randall can be viewed on YouTube.
The announcement follows Vodafone’s recent multi-year deal with Wimbledon and the All England Club as Official Connectivity Partner of The Championships.
Working alongside Wimbledon and Raducanu, Vodafone will use its world-leading connectivity, superfast 5G network and cutting-edge AR, VR and haptic technology to help bring the sport to more people and enhance the viewing and playing experience.
To find out more about Play Your Way to Wimbledon, powered by Vodafone, including how to sign up to compete at your local club, park or school, visit https://www.lta.org.uk/play-your-way-to-wimbledon/