Emma Raducanu stormed into the the British and World Tennis history books with a sensational US Open Championship success, becoming the first British women’s tennis player to not only reach a Grand Slam Final for 44 years, but to win it too, when Virginia Wade won Wimbledon in 1977.
You have to go back even further to find the last US Open success in the women’s game. Wade won the Title in 1968 and Britain have had to wait a full 53 years for the next legend to come along. Breaking every record there was to break, Raducanu also became the first qualifier to reach a Grand Slam Final and subsequently the first qualifier to win a major Final. She did so without dropping a single set throughout the ten matches.
Three weeks ago the name Emma Raducanu was hardly a household one, unless you rode in the same circles in the tennis circuit. The eighteen year old South Londoner had only previously played in one Grand Slam, at Wimbledon in July. On that occasion, a very commendable fourth round was achieved through her Wild Card status.
The Brit was born in Toronto, Canada on 13th November 2002, but moved to the United Kingdom when just two years of age.
Raducanu’s progression through the US Open had been steady and measured. Overcoming three qualifying matching before she even participated in the main draw, she could have been forgiven for just appreciating the taking part.
As the tournament progressed she garnered more and more attention from the New York crowd, often cheered and celebrated more than the home players. Despatching seasoned professionals Stefanie Voegele, Shuai Zeng, Sara Sorribes Tormo and American Shelby Rogers set up a huge Quarter Final tie against in-form and Olympic Gold Medal winner Belinda Bencic.
A early break of serve from the Swiss World Number 12 looked to set the tone for a difficult match up. However, as Raducanu adjusted to the massive surroundings of the Arthur Ashe Stadia and figured out Bencic’s game, she broke back immediately, which was an adjustment Bencic couldn’t cope with and went down to two beautifully played sets from the Brit.
Maria Sakkari, the Greek sensation, lay in ominous wait for Raducana in the Semi Final. However, the eighteen year old 150th World Ranking player despatched her opponent with minimum of fuss.
The match up for the final with nineteen year old Canadian Leylah Fernandez sounded the easiest on paper for Raducanu. However, the unseeded Fernandez had produced phenomenal performances and victories over two-time US Open Champion Naomi Osaka, as well as 2nd seed Aryna Sabalenka, 5th seed Elina Svitolina and former Wimbledon Champion Angelique Kerber. With that honour roll behind her she had every reason to believe this would not be a walkover.. and so it proved. Despite an early break from the new British Number One, Fernandez pegged her back immediately to tie the opening set at 2-2. A flurry of close-calls on serve amounted to little more than just that and each lady held their serve with a reasonable amount of comfort. That is until at 4-5 on the young Canadian’s serve. Two set points at 15-40 saw Fernandez fight back to deuce before Raducanu eventually took the opening set.
The British suporstar found herself one solitary set away from a maiden – and quite miraculous – Grand Slam success. However, Fernandez, being a tenacious fighter was sure to ensure this match was far from over.
Any hopes she felt were exerted in the opening couple of games of the second set. An early break from the Canadian showed exactly why she could never be written off. However, Raducanu broke back quickly in a reversal of fortunes from the opening set. Again, service games were relatively comfortably held by Raducanu as she forced home her advantage by breaking to fifteen to take a 4-2 lead. Serves were shared to make it 5-3 and giving Raducanu the chance to serve for the Championship.
The young Brit looked nervous as she tossed the initial ball to serve. Three times she tossed it in the air before catching it, drawing a few boos from the impatient New York audience. This didn’t deter her initially as she took a 30-15 lead, just two points from victory. However, still the ever tigrous Fernandez wouldn’t lie down as she hit back to bring up a break point. Raducanu dived across the hard Arthur Ashe surface and drew blood, which slipped down her left leg. The protocol in this situation is to stop play to deal with the cut, something Raducanu had no control over. It didn’t stop the anger within the young Canadian as she felt her rhythm was being disrupted. The Brit, on the other hand was concerned it may hinder her movement in her bid to close out the match.
With her leg taped up an astonishing US Open came to a dramatic climax for Emma Raducanu. She saved the break point and took her fourth Championship point to create history.. British history and worldwide tennis history.