Queen of New York Raducanu joins tennis royalty

A remarkable set of records have tumbled after Emma Raducanu achieved a real-life fairy tale in New York, becoming US Open champion.

Emma Raducanu / US Open 2021 Trophy©Pete Staples / USTA
 - Alex Sharp

Fancy this as a movie script.

A schoolgirl from Bromley, south London, finishes her studies, breaks out at Wimbledon, heads over to New York for US Open qualifying and wins all 20 sets to become a Grand Slam champion.

It’s not fiction, it’s Emma Raducanu.

Raducanu dreams become reality

“I first started when I was a little girl, but I think the biggest thing that you have visions of is the winning moment, and going to celebrate with your team in the box, trying to find your way up to the box, just seeing them after the match,” said the 18-year-old Brit, in complete dream land.

“That's been playing in my head a couple nights. I've fallen asleep to that.

“You just say these things, ‘I want to win a Grand Slam.’ But to have the belief I did, actually executing, winning a Grand Slam, I can't believe it.”

Let’s take a step back.

Three months ago, Raducanu was ranked world No.338 (now up to No.23), making her tour-level debut in Nottingham.

On Saturday night that was all a blur as she outmanoeuvred fellow teen sensation Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 6-3 on Arthur Ashe Stadium to end Britain’s 44-year wait for a women’s singles major winner.

Queen Elizabeth leading the congratulations

The first qualifier in tennis history to win a Grand Slam title is worthy of Royal approval.

"I send my congratulations to you on your success," the Queen said in a statement.

"It is a remarkable achievement at such a young age, and is testament to your hard work and dedication.

“I have no doubt your outstanding performance, and that of your opponent Leylah Fernandez, will inspire the next generation of tennis players."

Across the sporting world teens achieve immense accomplishments, but Raducanu’s rise is even more remarkable because it’s been so rapid. Wimbledon provided the platform.

“I thought Wimbledon was such an incredible experience. Fourth round, second week, I couldn't believe it. I thought, what a great achievement,” reflected Raducanu, who retired from her fourth-round match at SW19 with breathing difficulties, the experience “caught up” with her back in July.

“But I was still hungry. I was working hard after the grass. I didn't have much time off. Then straight back out here on the States (three tournaments and a 8-3 record). With each match and tournament, I think I've really built in terms of confidence, my game, my ball striking. Everything came together today.”

“Two future Hall of Famers!”


14 minutes in and Raducanu had wrestled away the initiative, posting an early 2-0 break. Both players excelled with fluid power, precision and depth, supreme court coverage in some pulsating rallies.

The level prompted Martina Navratilova on UK commentary to hail “We are witnessing two future Hall of Famers.” It was that kind of level.

“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,” stated Raducanu.

“The biggest triumph for me is how I managed to just not think of absolutely anything else except for my game plan, what I'm going to execute. All the outside stuff, I just completely zoned in and focused on my craft.”

A brace of crunching backhand passes erased a break lead for Fernandez in the second set, before Raducanu, a keen Formula One fan, struck a collection of line-painting winners to race towards the finish line.

The magic moment came at 3-2 up, lightning reflexes on the baseline, as Raducanu read a Fernandez put-away volley to catapult an instinctive forehand pass for the pivotal lead.

A nasty fall break point down at 5-3, serving for a major title in only her second Grand Slam, couldn’t derail the 18-year-old.

“The chair umpire said I needed to get it treated right away. I guess I just went over and was really trying to think what my patterns of play were going to be, what I was going to try to execute,” revealed Raducanu, who converted her third match point with an ace.

‘Free swing’ for the future

Due to covid restrictions, Raducanu’s mother Renee was in the UK and on her daughter’s behalf, had collected an award for ‘Kent Player of the Year’ at the Sundridge Park tennis club. Grounded and not getting carried away, the Raducanu family respect their roots.

Turning heads from Kent to New York, but what next?

“I haven't thought of any of that, to be honest. After the match, I just showered, same routines as always. I'm not even thinking about when I'm going home. I have no idea what I'm doing tomorrow. I'm just really trying to embrace the moment, really take it all in,” maintained the new British No.1, who was due to enter WTA Luxembourg qualifying on Monday.

“I definitely think it's the time to just switch off from any future thoughts or any plans, any schedule. Right now, no care in the world, I'm just loving life.

“For me I don't feel absolutely any pressure. I'm still only 18 years old. I'm just having a free swing as anything that comes my way. That's how I faced every match here in the States. Yeah, it got me this trophy, so I don't think I should change anything.”

Fernandez a fixture at the top

Obviously, Fernandez deserves huge credit too. The Canadian, who hadn’t won back to back matches since March, enthralled the Flushing Meadows crowds with victories over Top 5 talent in Aryna Sabalenka, Naomi Osaka and Elina Svitolina. The 19-year-old truly lit up the Arthur Ashe Stadium, was a highlight reel all fortnight.

We could be set for plenty of Raducanu versus Fernandez battles.

“I think this loss, I'm going to carry it for a very long time. I think it will motivate me to do better in training, better for the next opportunity I get,” said the Canadian.

“But I'm very happy with myself, with the way I competed, and the play I played, the way I acted on court the past two weeks. I've improved a lot not only tennis-wise but emotionally and mentally. Yes, it's definitely magical.”

Leylah Fernandez & Emma Raducanu / US Open 2021©Darren Carroll / USTA