What on earth is going on with Emma Raducanu at the US Open?
The 18-year-old Brit was a wildcard at Wimbledon, ranked just 343 in the world. She got to the fourth round, where she finally dropped her first set of the tournament, before retiring against Ajla Tomljanovic with what appeared to be a panic attack — hardly surprising after the intense press and public scrutiny. Talk about being thrown in at the deep end.
And now she’s doing the same at the US Open in Flushing Meadows — but even better. She not only got through three rounds of qualifying, but has now reached the semi-finals without dropping a set. This makes her the first female qualifier in American tennis history to get to the last four. In fact, the scores in those sets have mostly been a breeze – 6-1, 6-0, 6-2 — and , like many people, I ’ ve been confused as to how this has all been happening.
One thing that seems to have helped her is that her opponents appear to have been riddled with nerves against what now seems to be a carefree youngster. She came out onto the main stadium for her match against the home favourite, Shelby Rogers, smiling and waving at the crowd. And then she breezed through in a 6-2, 6-1 whitewash. Rogers had beaten the number one seed, Ashleigh Barty, in the previous round — so this was pretty unexpected.
Next up for Raducanu in the quarter-finals, however, was the Olympic gold medalist and 2019 US Open semi-finalist Belinda Bencic , who was seeded 11th. Surely not again?
And yet, the British girl runs out the winner, again in straight sets. This time I see it. She ’ s astute – she picks out the Swiss player ’ s weaknesses – and she sends some screamers down the line, a shot she clearly favours. And she knows when to go back behind her opponent. She also takes the ball early, gets down low and is beautifully balanced. As an 18-year-old, she ’ s lightning fast. And once again, she ’ s traded on her opponent ’ s nerves.
By tomorrow morning we will know whether Raducanu has done it again against Maria Sakkari of Greece, seeded 17th. Viewers in the UK can watch it live on Amazon Prime. If she wins, she will play the winner of the other semi-final between the Canadian Leylah Fernandez and Aryna Sabalenka, the number 2 seed from Belarus.
British tennis fans are going nuts. It’s just as well she is in the USA, away from all the UK hype.
So, what next for Raducanu? Can she sustain this form? Without all the media pressure on her home turf, Emma seems to be running free. Who knows what may happen?