Meet the world No 279 and Grand Slam winner who faces Emma Raducanu in Nottingham

Ena Shibahara
Ena Shibahara will face Emma Raducanu in Nottingham.

The Nottingham Open qualifiers have been placed into the main draw, and one was always likely to attract more attention than the others.

British fans were waiting to see who Emma Raducanu would be drawn against, as the Brit starts her grass court season on home soil – looking to kickstart a topsy-turvy season to date.

And the 2021 US Open champion now knows she will face Ena Shibahara at the Nottingham Tennis Centre this coming week.

The Japanese star will be no easy opponent – here’s all you need to know about her.

US-born star

Shibahara represents Japan, but that hasn’t always been the case.

The 26-year-old was born in Mountain View, California in February 1998 and represented the country of her birth at the start of her career.

However, Shibahara has Japanese heritage and, after gaining Japanese citizenship, has represented the nation since July 2019.

She made her Billie Jean King Cup debut for Japan in 2020, and also competed at her home Olympic Games in 2021, losing in round one.

Grand Slam title

Much like her round one opponent in Nottingham, Shibahara can call herself a Grand Slam champion after winning the mixed doubles title at the 2022 French Open.

Partnered alongside Wesley Koolhof, the second seeds dropped just one set on their way to the final, where they beat Ulrikke Eikeri and Joran Vliegen to claim the title.

That is not the only major final that the Japanese star has reached, with Shibahara also a women’s doubles finalist at the 2023 Australian Open.

She and partner Shuko Aoyama were tenth seeds in Melbourne and beat Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula to reach the final, before being beaten by Katerina Siniakova and Barbora Krejcikova.

Doubles stalwart

Those big major runs are no fluke, with Shibahara consistently proving herself to be one of the very best players in the world in the discipline.

Mostly alongside compatriot Aoyama, she has won 10 titles and reached a further five finals – including their Melbourne run.

The pair triumphed at the WTA 1000 Canadian Open in 2023 and won the Miami Open in 2021, the two biggest titles they have won together as a pairing.

At the French Open, Shibahara played with Wang Xiyu, reaching the third round where they lost to eventual winners Gauff and Siniakova.

Is Coco Gauff set for bold career move after French Open triumph?

Nottingham campaign

Shibahara is not known for her singles prowess but the world No 279 has impressed to come through qualifying at the WTA 250 event.

The Japanese star first faced 11th seed Maddison Inglis, but edged a tight first set and was rarely troubled after that in a 7-6(1), 6-2 victory.

She then came from a set down against second seed and hot prospect Alex Eala in the final round of qualifying, beating the teen star 6-7(5), 6-0, 6-2 to reach the main draw.

Shibahara has certainly been handed an enticing draw against Raducanu – how will she fare against one of the biggest names in the sport?