Already in sight at Wimbledon, the young British tennis prodigy Emma Raducanu qualified for the final of the US Open on Friday. At 18, she became the first player from qualifying to reach this stage in a Grand Slam tournament.
She’s in the US Open final and still hasn’t lost a set. At 18, Briton Emma Raducanu dazzled the American Grand Slam tournament with her talent and precocity. By currying the Greek Maria Sakkari, she became the first player in history from qualifying to reach this stage of a Major. She is also the youngest since Russian Maria Sharapova, who was 17 in 2004, at Wimbledon.
The Briton, not a record ready to beat, could also become the first to win at Flushing Meadows without losing a set since Serena Williams in 2014.
A flawless and flawless course
Born in Toronto to a Romanian father and a Chinese mother, the British nugget has had an extraordinary tournament. Since the qualifiers she had to go through due to her low WTA ranking, she has methodically defeated all those that have come her way.
In the round of 16, the 18-year-old Briton crushed (6-2, 6-1) the American Shelby Rogers (43e), who had however created the surprise in the previous round by eliminating the world n ° 1, the Australian Ashleigh Barty. In the previous round, she had almost humiliated the Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo (41e world) of a “double bubble” in front of a conquered audience (6-0, 6-1).
His next victim, Belinda Bencic, semifinalist at the US Open in 2019 and Olympic gold medalist in Tokyo, had yet ideally entered the quarterfinals, putting pressure on him with an entry break. However, the tennis prodigy has found the mental resources to overthrow her opponent and win the last four.
The fact was already unheard of at the US Open, but it is also very rare in other Majors, as the young woman is only the fourth qualifier to reach this stage, after the Australian Christine Matison Dorey in Melbourne in 1978, the American Alexandra Stevenson at Wimbledon in 1999 and the Argentine Nadia Podoroska last year at Roland Garros.
Finally, in the semi-final, she disposed of Maria Sakkari, who was the second Grand Slam semi-final. Emma Raducanu disgusted her in the game, outscoring her in a first round removed in 28 minutes. The second was a bit more contested, but Sakkari saw most of her cannon shots returned like a wall would, which inevitably prompted her to commit many unforced errors (33v17).
At Wimbledon, the pressure was too much
The revelation of the tournament, present on the professional circuit since the end of 2019, had seen its flash ascent stopped because of the Covid-19 crisis. She took advantage of the period to devote herself to her studies and pass the British equivalent of the baccalaureate. Relieved of this constraint, she was invited to the Wimbledon tournament where she was talked about.
For the first Grand Slam of her career, the one that then pointed to the 338e world place reached the round of 16. But dizzy and plagued by breathing difficulties, she was forced to give up against Australian Ajla Tomljanovic (6-4, 3-0).
The next day, she will explain on her Instagram account having “probably mismanaged (her) stress by playing in front of such a large crowd”.
“I think that the whole stake caught up with me. After the first set and intense exchanges, I started to breathe painfully and to feel dizzy”, explained the young player.
Since then, the Briton has learned to cope with the pressure, as her performance against Belinda Bencic proved on Arthur-Ashe center court at New York’s Flushing Meadows.
“I think I play better here than at Wimbledon,” she commented from New York. “The sequence of games and the experience I have gathered over the past four or five weeks have helped me improve my game game after game.”
The circuit is ecstatic
Tour watchers are won over by the performance of the British nugget and his energetic and domineering style, based on powerful flat strikes from the baseline and two-handed backhand. “Emma’s progress has been spectacular because that’s what she is on the pitch, every day. Her mindset, drive and ambition is screaming, her work ethic is relentless. She wants to be the best. and try to win every point “, testifies Jamie Delgado, the coach of Andy Murray, who has done several training sessions with her this winter. Moreover, the British star also follows his performances closely.
For former Czech champion Martina Navratilova, there is no doubt: “She is a superstar in the making. We don’t want to put too much pressure on her, but she has this thing that we saw the first time at (Rafael) Nadal, (Novak) Djokovic and we see at (18-year-old Spaniard) Carlos Alcaraz. It’s there, before our eyes. She was born for that. “
For Virginia Wade, the last Briton to have her name listed in the US Open (1968), the talent of Emma Raducanu is beyond doubt. “There are a few categories with which I rate players,” she told the British press. “The athleticism, the determination, the focus, the ability to improvise. Emma ticks all the boxes. I would just like to see her come to the net a little more often. […] She might even go on and win this tournament. You look at her and you’re like, ‘Why not?’ “She notes.
Youth in power in the female table
Leylah Fernandez is Flushing’s other female sensation at 19. She successively dismissed the defending champion, the Japanese Naomi Osaka (3e), the German Angelique Kerber (17e), Ukrainian Elina Svitolina (5e) and finally Thursday evening the world n ° 2 Aryna Sabalenka by going up each time a set.
“I have no idea how I did it! I would say it was thanks to the New York public. He helped me today. He supported me. It’s years and years of work. , tears, blood and sacrifice. I’m so happy to be in the final, “she exclaimed with joy.
Who would she prefer to play her final against? “I don’t care! I just want to play it!” Leylah Fernandez laughed.
“Is there an expectation? I’m from qualifying, so no pressure,” Emma Raducanu laughed back.
Raducanu against Fernandez, it is the first final between teenagers in a Major, since that of the US Open won in 1999 by Serena Williams, then aged 17, at the expense of the Swiss Martina Hingis, 18 at the time. . Glorious predecessors that the two young girls hope to emulate, they who cross each other on the courts since childhood – “in the under 12s, we played the Orange Bowl and other tournaments, in juniors at Wimbledon, also, “recalled the Briton.
“We really want to make a difference in the world of tennis,” Leylah Fernandez said Tuesday night. “We want to make an impact on tennis. This tournament just proves how adaptable we are to everything.”
One thing is certain, talent and recklessness have already triumphed at Flushing Meadows.