Emma Raducanu feeling no pressure after stunning US Open triumph

Emma Raducanu vowed to keep her free-swinging and carefree approach to tennis after pulling off one of the great sporting feats with victory at the US Open.

Sunday, 12th September 2021, 5:31 pm
Updated Sunday, 12th September 2021, 5:54 pm
Emma Raducanu collapses to the floor after defeating Leylah Fernandez in the US Open women's singles final in New York on Saturday night. Picture: AP/Elise Amendola

Winning grand slam titles is supposed to be hard – just ask Andy Murray – but his 18-year-old compatriot did not so much clear all the usual hurdles as sidestep them altogether, going home with the trophy in just her second major tournament.

That was an unprecedented feat, as was the fact she won 10 matches at the tournament after coming through qualifying, all of them in straight sets.

Raducanu’s 6-4 6-3 victory over fellow teenager Leylah Fernandez in the final made her the first British woman since Virginia Wade, who was watching from the stands, 44 years ago to win a slam singles title, and the first in New York since Wade in 1968.

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Emma Raducanu holds up the US Open championship trophy after defeating Leylah Fernandez in New York AP/Seth Wenig

Raducanu is yet to win a match on the WTA Tour and little over three months ago she was a full-time schoolgirl completing her A-levels, with competitive tennis having taken a back seat for more than a year.

But the teenager’s extraordinary talent was evident from an early age and she showed in her run to the fourth round of Wimbledon this summer that a big future lay ahead.

Raducanu said: “I’ve always dreamed of winning a grand slam. 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.”

Emma Raducanu in action during the women's singles final New York. Picture:: ZUMA/PA

Raducanu’s run has been marked by an almost preternatural calmness, which included shutting out the excitement and hype her achievements have generated back home.

The teenager has been inundated with congratulatory messages, including from the Queen, but she said: “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.”

Much was made of Raducanu’s unfortunate retirement at Wimbledon with breathing difficulties but the teenager quickly put it behind her and used it as a springboard to this incredible feat.

She worked hard on being physically strong enough to compete at the top level and, through a series of matches first at lower-tier events and then at Flushing Meadows, made leaps forward with each one.

She said: “At the beginning of the grass courts, I was coming fresh off my exams. I had three weeks to practise 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’.

“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.”

As well as a cheque for £1.8million – dwarfing her previous earnings of £220,000 – Raducanu collects 2,000 ranking points and will soar up the standings from 150 to 23.

She has gone overnight from a rank outsider to one of the top names in the game, although she swatted away any talk of pressure.

“I don’t feel absolutely any pressure,” she said. “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.”

Raducanu’s team includes her parents, Ian and Renee, who were forced to watch their daughter on TV because of the continuing difficulties of international travel.

One of Raducanu’s proudest achievements was impressing her dad, who has been the driving force behind the scenes.

She said: “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.

“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 that.”