Sonay Kartal shot to prominence last summer when clips of her junior matches with Emma Raducanu became viral social media hits and now she has set her sights on achieving success in her own career.
Sonay’s battles with Raducanu in under-9 and under-12 events highlighted the stunning abilities of the two young players and now she is making her mark in the UK Pro League Final Weeks in Shrewsbury.
We sat down with Sonay to get her views on her rivalry and friendship with Raducanu, as well as looking ahead to what she hopes will be a breakthrough year in 2022.
- How important has the Pro League been for your year?
Getting the match practice is so important and that’s why the Pro League has been massive for the British players. The format of the Pro League is fantastic as it means we are all guaranteed matches in the round-robin format. If you go to a regular tournament and lose in the first round, that is the end of it, but there is another match to play here. The prize money is incredible and it allows us to fund future trips to rankings events.
- How tough is it to make the step from the junior ranks to the professional tour?
It’s very tough. I know so many people who have dropped out of tennis because they couldn’t afford to go on the Tour and it might not be because they were not good enough. It just came down to having money to fund it. My target for next year is to be in the top 500 of the WTA rankings. At the moment I’m in the 900s, but I want to get that moving next year.
- Do you feel you are ready to make that step up?
I had injury problem as my body just wasn’t standing up to the demands of playing regular matches week after week, but it feels like I’m getting there now. This Pro League has been fantastic for me and my aim is to stay fit and try and kick on next year.
- How do you deal with defeats?
I’m okay with it. Mentally, I feel like that is one of my big strengths. Some hurt more than others, but the think about tennis is once one match finishes, there is always another one.
- You shot to prominence in viral media videos playing Emma Raducanu in junior matches this summer. How did it feel to be in the media spotlight?
It was fine. I remembered the match when we were nine and the point that was replayed so many times so well. Luckily I hit the winning shot at the end of it!
The interest in those videos went around the world and I was in Turkey two weeks ago playing an event and some Italian coaches came up to me as they knew I was the girl on the clips playing Raducanu. My story is a little different to Emma’s because I have had some injury problems that have hampered me, but we can all take inspiration from her success.
- Raducanu won the UK Pro League last year, so does her success since then offer you inspiration?
Of course. I grew up playing Emma, so it proves to me that the dream of making it in tennis is not too far away. It has put into perspective for all the British players just how possible it could be to breakthrough.
Emma’s success is just crazy. The fact that she hadn’t even won a single match in a WTA event and then went out and won the US Open… it was just crazy.
I sent her a text to say well done after the win in New York and there is no jealously from my end. Just a realisation that we can all do it if we push hard and take our chances.
- Who are your favourite tennis players?
Roger Federer and Kim Clijsters. It has been amazing to watch this era of tennis with Federer, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic and I don’t think we will ever see three players competing against each other like that again. It has been incredible to watch.
By Kevin Palmer