EMMA Raducanu’s childhood rival says the tennis star’s success has inspired her to follow in her footsteps.

Sonay Kartal, from Brighton, faced the US Open champion in youth tennis competitions from an early age.

“We grew up playing each other,” Sonay said.

“I think my earliest memory is maybe under-nines up until under-14s. We’d be in the same national tournaments, and we’d always end up meeting each other in the finals and we’d alternate almost every week who won.”

A wrist problem and two abdominal tears left Sonay unable to pick up a racket.

But now aged 20, since returning last October, Sonay has won 26 of her 28 matches, claiming four titles and increasing her ranking to 397 – only 58 places lower than Raducanu was when she reached the fourth round of Wimbledon.

The Argus: Emma Raducanu Emma Raducanu

Discussing her old rivals success, Sonay said: “It has inspired me, and I think I can speak for the others who grew up playing around her that it’s nothing but inspiration.

“A little kick that what we’re all trying to achieve, it’s doable, it’s not a dream that’s so unachievable. It was motivation for all of us.”

The Lawn Tennis Association has been criticised for not investing in enough home tournaments, but this year the governing body is funding 16 tournaments for both men and women on the International Tennis Federation Tour.

“Tournaments at home, especially right now with Covid still going on, it makes our lives so much easier,” Sonay said.

“And also financially, it helps a huge amount. It’s an expensive sport anyway, let alone when you add in the travel.”

The Argus: Sonay Kartal, from Brighton Sonay Kartal, from Brighton

In the coming weeks, she will be aiming to build on her tournament wins in Birmingham and Glasgow, with success on clay in Turkey before returning home for back-to-back tournaments in Nottingham in April.

Raducanu is the only British woman in the top 100.