US Open: revelation Raducanu with final four feeling

 - Alex Sharp

Emma Raducanu’s dream run continues, whilst history-chasing Novak Djokovic sets up a box office semi-final with Alexander Zverev.

Emma Raducanu / US Open 2021©Garrett Ellwood / USTA

The US Open semi-finals are locked in and they are not to be missed.

Over on the women’s side two teenagers dare to snatch away major silverware.

On the men’s side, can Novak Djokovic secure the unthinkable, the Calendar Grand Slam? The world No.1 is just two steps away.

Raducanu believing anything is possible

A fortnight before taking to court to face Olympic champion Belinda Bencic on Arthur Ashe Stadium, Emma Raducanu was igniting her qualifying campaign.

Now, without dropping a set in eight matches, the 18-year-old is within reach of Grand Slam glory.

“I didn't expect to be here at all. I think my flights were booked at the end of qualifying, so it's a nice problem to have,” revealed the world No.150.

“I'm just really enjoying the experience. I was saying to myself, ‘This could be the last time you play on Ashe,’ so might as well just go for it and enjoy everything.”

The Brit absorbed everything Bencic unleashed, recovering from a nervy 0-2 start to ping off a selection of supreme forehand passing shots, exquisite movement and composure posting 6-3, 6-4 on the scoreboard.

A flurry of stats pinged on social media, Raducanu the first female qualifier to reach a US Open semi-final, the fourth to do so ever at any major! The teenager also joins illustrious company alongside Billie Jean King and Kim Clijsters as the only women ranked outside the Top 100 to reach the US Open last four.

Another batch of autographs, selfies and endearing moments, Raducanu is officially a star.

During on-court interviews the Brit has mentioned her own “trajectory,” having focused on studies and then creating her own path to the top.

Remember, Raducanu only made her WTA debut in June on the grass of Nottingham.

“I think to compare yourself and your results against anyone is probably like the thief of happiness, everyone is doing their own thing. I didn't compete for 18 months, but here I am, and it just shows that if you believe in yourself, then anything is possible,” maintained the 18-year-old.

Following her Wimbledon fourth-round breakout, Raducanu took steps down to lower tour tiers, vying in three hard court events Stateside. An 8-3 record, including a final in Chicago just prior to US Open qualifying, again emphasises her will to plot her own path. Gradual and methodical.

Even with her own preparations, Raducanu admits she didn’t expect to be at this stage and is intent on staying level-headed, despite being so close to dreamland glory.

“Let's say I have a hunger to win every single match I play, so I don't want to get ahead of myself at all, because I just like to take it one day at a time. If I take care of what I can control, then that's going to give me the best chance,” stated Raducanu, set to break into the Top 50 next week and become British No.1.

“Until now, I think it's worked very well for me not getting ahead of myself, just focusing on one point at a time. It's got me to this stage, and I'm not going to change anything.”

Sakkari in the zone


World No.18 Maria Sakkari has been set the task of stopping Raducanu to book her maiden Grand Slam final.

The Greek advanced to her second major semi-final with a blistering 6-4, 6-4 passage past No.4 seed Karolina Pliskova. The backhand down the line was a bullet, Sakkari lost just two points on her first serve in the entire match.

"I'm getting where I want to be, getting closer to achieving my goals, making myself believe that I belong here,” stated the 26-year-old. “Now after this season, which is not over yet, I proved to myself that I can actually be one of the top players in the world.

“I feel like my tennis is better now than it was at Roland-Garros. I'm more prepared. I'm ready.”

The semi-finalist at Porte d’Auteuil has notched up three successive triumphs over Top 10 players en route to the last four. Raducanu represents a totally different proposition.

“Obviously she's having the tournament of her life. She deserves to be here. She has won all these matches. But I wouldn't call myself the favourite,” insisted Sakkari.

“It doesn't matter that she's lower ranked. She's a great player. I'm just going to go for it and enjoy because this atmosphere today was insane, was crazy.”

Djokovic revenge over Zverev?


26 down, two to go. World No.1 Novak Djokovic is edging towards tennis immortality.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion declared the last three sets were his best yet, responding 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 to outclass No.6 seed Matteo Berrettini.

In doing so, the top seed is within touching distance of the Calendar Grand Slam. The incessant talk of history “burdens me mentally.” Djokovic is determined to go back to basics ahead of his Tokyo 2020 rematch with Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals.

Zverev, motoring past Lloyd Harris on Wednesday, reeled in Djokovic from a 1-6, 2-3 deficit to sniper down the Serbian’s Olympic dream. Heart break for the world No.1.

“Unfortunately (my) game fell apart. It happens. I just started to doubt my shots a bit… Deserved to win a gold medal obviously with the way he was playing. He hasn't lost a match since,” reflected Djokovic, aware Zverev is on a 16-match winning streak.

“He's in a fantastic form. Next to Medvedev, best form. But it's best-of-five. It's Grand Slam. Of course looking at his results in past few years, he's played very well here on this court. He was a couple points away from his first slam last year against Dominic (Thiem).

“I know it's going to be battle, even harder than it was today. But I'm ready for it. Look, these are the hurdles that I need to overcome in order to get to the desired destination.”

Defiant Djokovic’s date with destiny has arrived.