Record-breaking Raducanu
Tennis teen wows the world with US Open win
Published: Sep 16, 2021 12:58 PM
Emma Raducanu Photo: VCG

Emma Raducanu Photo: VCG

Dreams do come true, at least if you are the new US Open women's singles champion Emma Raducanu.

"I've always dreamed of winning a Grand Slam," she said after doing just that by beating fellow teenager Leylah Fernandez in the final in New York.

"You say, 'I want to win a Grand Slam,' but to have the belief I did, and actually executing, winning a Grand Slam, I can't believe it. I first started when I was a little girl but I think the biggest thing that you have visions of, for me it was just winning, the winning moment, and going to celebrate with your team in the box. That's been playing in my head a couple of nights. I've fallen asleep to that."

She fell asleep on last Saturday night in the city that never sleeps as the new superstar of tennis with the world congratulating her - not that she had any idea, she said after the final.

"I still haven't checked my phone. I have absolutely no idea what's going on outside of the little world that we're in here. We've just been in the quiet room, just enjoying the moment, taking it all in. I think today we just really need to shut out from everything, just enjoy it as a team, because it was a team effort."

The win saw messages of congratulations from far and wide, including the Queen, but the 18-year-old from Kent was living in the moment despite making history.

"I have no idea when I'm going home. I have no idea what I'm doing tomorrow. I definitely think it's the time to just switch off from any future thoughts or any plans, any schedule. I've got absolutely no clue. Right now, no care in the world, I'm just loving life."

She would find out that she was going to the famous Met Gala on Sunday, what else would a teenager in New York without their parents do?

Father Ian and mother Renee were back at the family home on the outskirts of London, where the family relocated to from Canada, where the tennis sensation was born.

"I would have loved them to be here, and we can all celebrate together where they could be with me and experience the same things," Raducanu said of her parents.

"But they're watching from home very proud. My dad, he said to me, 'You're even better than your dad thought,' so that was reassurance. Tinie Tempah reference there. My dad is definitely very tough to please. But I managed to today."

Much has been made of her Chinese-Romanian parentage with fans in China.

Raducanu, who celebrated the win by thanking her Chinese fans in Chinese, paid tribute to that side of her family too.

"They are so mentally resilient - it's like nothing can bring them down. I would say I take a big part of my inspiration from her. My mum has worked very hard," she said.

Like everyone else, those fans in China warmed to Raducanu over the summer after she burst onto the scene as a wild card at Wimledon.

Her run at SW19 would end in the fourth round as she was forced to retire injured.

She said, "At the beginning of the grass courts, I was coming fresh off my exams. I had three weeks to practice before my first tournament. I just built up every single match, every single win. I thought Wimbledon was such an incredible experience. Fourth round, second week, I couldn't believe it. I thought, 'What a great achievement.'"

Raducanu said the run at her first Slam, which came after she had finished school nd was awaiting her A-level results, just spurred her on.

"But I was still hungry. I was working hard after the grass. I didn't have much time off. With each match and tournament, I think I've really built in terms of confidence, in terms of my game, in terms of my ball striking. Everything came together today. I think to pull off some of the shots I did in the big moments when I really needed it was just an accumulation of everything I've learnt in the past five weeks."

Those five weeks included qualifying at the US Open, something she will not have to do again having now won a Grand Slam. The Canada-born Briton started the summer with a world ranking of 336 before Wimbledon and was still at 150th in the world before making history in New York. She is now the world No 23.

"I don't feel absolutely any pressure," she said after winning. "I'm still only 18 years old. I'm just having a free swing at anything that comes my way. That's how I faced every match here in the States. It got me this trophy, so I don't think I should change anything."

She had said much the same in the run-up to the final.

"I didn't expect to be here at all," Raducanu said after beating Belinda Bencic in the quarterfinals.

"My flights were booked at the end of qualifying, so it's a nice problem to have."

"I'm just really enjoying the experience. Out there on the court, I was saying to myself, this could be the last time you play on [Arthur] Ashe, so might as well just go for it and enjoy everything."

That attitude continued ahead of beating Greece's Maria Sakkari in the semi, another match where she did not drop a set.

"Is there any expectation? I'm a qualifier," she said after becoming the first qualifier - male or female - to reach a Slam final before going on to be the first to win one, still without dropping a set.

There is bound to be more pressure as the calendar resumes for 2021 when Raducanu will be seen as one of the favorites at the Australian Open, the first Slam of the season. If the first two slams of her career - in which she is still yet to win a WTA Tour match - then Raducanu has much more to come.

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