Emma Raducanu: The improbable rise of the US Open champion

Emma Raducanu with her US Open 2021 trophy (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)
Emma Raducanu with her US Open 2021 trophy (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images) /

A 108 mph ace served out wide, followed by an immediate drop of her racket, Emma Raducanu fell on her back while covering her face, wiping tears of joy, as she tried to grasp the sheer magnitude of what she’d just managed to achieve. Raducanu, aged 18, had just bagged her first Grand Slam title, in her US Open debut.

The victory made Raducanu the first-ever qualifier, male-or-female, to win a major in the Open Era, and she did it all without dropping a set. She also became the first British woman to win a major singles title since Virginia Wade won Wimbledon in 1977.

It’s an absolute dream, Raducanu said in her post-match press conference. You just have visions of yourself going up to the box, hugging everyone, I mean, celebrating. That’s something that you always think of, you always work for.
On the back of her improbable title-winning run, Raducanu jumped 127 spots in the WTA rankings to a career-high No.23, taking compatriot Johanna Konta’s long-held spot as Great Britain’s top-ranked woman. Also equally shocking is the fact that this victory comes without Raducanu ever winning a main draw match on the WTA Tour. Just how crazy is that?

The US Open is also only the second Grand Slam that Raducanu has played besides Wimbledon, where she retired mid-match in her round 4 match against Ajla Tomljanovic, after having trouble with her breathing and struggling with nerves.

Raducanu explained in her post-match presser, that she was quite pleased with the way she was able to focus on the task at hand and execute her game plan, not letting anything distract her.

I think the biggest triumph for me is how I managed to just not think of absolutely anything else except for my game plan,

Raducanu said.

I didn’t really think anything other than what was going on on the tennis court. All the outside stuff, I just completely zoned in and focused on my craft.

When I was on the tennis court, it was just business as usual, focusing on the plays, she added. That’s the biggest thing that I’m proud of. I think that’s definitely the biggest thing that’s probably helped me to win this title.

Following her triumphant US Open campaign, Raducanu has gone from a relative unknown into an overnight star. Her title-winning tilt has sparked global media interest, with some proclaiming her as the new queen of tennis. A clip of Raducanu thanking her fans in Mandarin was posted on US Open’s Weibo account, which has since gone viral.

Raducanu was born in Canada and moved to Britain with her Chinese mother, Renee, and Romanian father, Ian, aged two. The 18-year-old champion takes great pride in her mixed heritage and has attributed her upbringing as a reason for her mental resilience.

Yeah, I think that the calmness and the mental strength definitely comes from my upbringing, Raducanu explained, after her previous win over Belinda Bencic in the US Open quarterfinals. I think my parents have both instilled in me from a very young age to definitely have a positive attitude on court, because, yeah, when I was younger, it was definitely an absolute no-go if I had any sort of bad attitude. So from a young age, I definitely learnt that, and it’s followed me until now.

The US Open champion has been basking in her newfound fame, going on a sightseeing spree in New York, and making appearances on major US talk shows, including an appearance on Good Morning America.

She also made an appearance at the Met Gala, where she donned a black-and-white Chanel ensemble,  joined by numerous celebrities and fellow tennis stars.

Throughout this Grand Slam, both Raducanu and her opponent in the final, Leylah Fernandez, who recently turned 19, made it amply clear that they possess a well-rounded game with weapons to hurt anybody on the tour, supreme athleticism, and on-court awareness that belies their age.

That being said, if women’s tennis has taught us anything in the past few years, it’s to expect the unexpected. The pool is talent stacked, with a widening group of young champions and hungry contenders, having different game styles and unique personas, looking to make their mark. But in the past few seasons, there have been multiple instances of some of them being unable to replicate their earlier successes.

It would be interesting to see if the two teens can follow up on their brilliant performances in New York and remain consistent enough to build compelling rivalries, something that’s been missing from the women’s tour for a long time now.

But for now, the British teen sensation is just embracing the moment and not looking too far ahead into the future.

I have no idea what I’m doing tomorrow,

Raducanu said.

I’m just really trying to embrace the moment, really take it all in. I definitely think it’s the time to just switch off from any future thoughts or any plans.

I’ve got absolutely no clue,

Raducanu added.

Right now, no care in the world, I’m just loving life.

Next. 5 Reasons Emma Raducanu will be the Future of Women’s Tennis. dark