“Technically I’m a qualifier so there is no pressure on me,” the 2021 U.S. Open winner Emma Raducanu said smilingly of her success at winning the title. It was her unlikely final opponent, Leylah Fernandez who was a defiant player trying to break down the Brit’s gameplay but unable to of the 6-4, 6-3 victory. Raducanu’s journey from just playing the qualies to victory was just as much a surprise to others as it was to herself. “I still can’t believe it,” she laughingly said as she was interviewed at the ESPN desk at the Open.
At 18, Raducanu tore through barriers and proclaimed her skills upon her six main draw opponents. She’s the only player who’s won in straight sets besides Serena Williams back in 2014. But the hype may be what Raducanu loves and being in the big stadium is what she needed to keep her game sharp against her strong-willed opponents. They are pretty much strangers to Raducanu as she emphasized saying “I know absolutely no one on the tour and I feel like a new kid on the block.” She’s quite used to digging in and just going deep as she’s won the Girls’ Wimbledon title from Leylah Fernandez just three years ago. She also came through to the final of a Chicago Challenger, a few weeks ago despite her loss there, feeling as though she’s gained so much knowledge and experience. “I played an insane amount of matches,” Emma had gingerly said. But it was her efforts that helped to pay off and it did. She had gotten through the ITF Great Britain Challenger, months ago with also straight-set wins up to the quarterfinal rounds. Is this an indication of what may happen more often for Emma in a competitive field that isn’t without many goals and aspirations? Raducanu’s physical strength was partly key to her success too. If it wasn’t the Brit’s clipping down the lines, it was her acute cross courts and wide serving that cracked into Fernandez’s rhythm and gameplay. Raducanu has played in the Ashe Stadium four times and some say the acoustics and volume are overbearing. But for the Brit, it didn’t seem to rattle her nerves a bit. “From the first point, I thought this is business as usual,” Emma giggled as she collected her trophy and prize money check on court. Despite making things look rather easy, she confessed that “This fortnight…I had a lot of tough times.”
But the uncomforting times is what made Raducanu want the Open title, even more, when she couldn’t have her mom and dad’s physical support in the stadium because of visa situations. She carried on and made every moment count but the road down to the last few points needed a medical time out after she slipped on the hard court and cut her leg. Fernandez at the time was up only by a point or so before the incident, but after the medical break, her sting became less and with a few extra errors and inabilities to return shots might have helped to give Raducanu an upper hand at winning the championship round.
After the match, the Brit’s acceptance speech was short and to the point. She thanked her team and Leylah for being a defiant opponent. Emma also admitted that “both of us were playing fearless tennis.” The match and ceremonies ended with the Brit smiling sweetly on her successful endeavours, knowing that this was a moment in time. She came in ranked 150 and in a few days will be number 24. She knows and everyone in the tennis community knows that things for Emma Raducanu will never be the same again.