Emma Raducanu 'loving life' after US Open triumph
Emma Raducanu has said she is "loving life" and 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.
The 18-year-old executed a sensational performance against Canada's Leylah Fernandez, becoming the first qualifier to win a grand slam singles title in the Open Era and all without dropping a set.
Raducanu is also the first woman ever to win a title in as few as two tournaments, and the youngest since Maria Sharapova triumphed at Wimbledon in 2004.
Raducanu is the first British woman to win the US Open since 1968 following her 6-4 6-3 victory.
The 18-year-old fell to the court in disbelief before climbing into the stands to celebrate with her team, who had arrived in New York simply targeting a place in the main draw.
The teenager will take home prize money of £1.8 million – more than eight times her current career earnings – as well as 2,000 ranking points, which will move her up from her current standing of 150 to 23.
There was more success for Britain in the men's wheelchair doubles, with Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid completing their calendar grand slam with victory at the US Open.
It was double success for Joe Salisbury who won the mixed title with partner Desirae Krawczyk, a day after winning the men's doubles title with US partner Rajeev Ram.
Speaking after her victory, Raducanu, who only finished her A-levels earlier this summer said she could not believe what she had achieved.
“I’ve always dreamed of winning a grand slam," the teenager said in a press conference.
"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.”
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.
“I have no idea when I’m going home. I have no idea what I’m doing tomorrow. I definitely think it’s the time to just switch off from any future thoughts or any plans, any schedule. I’ve got absolutely no clue. Right now, no care in the world, I’m just loving life.”
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 today.”
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.”
This was the first all-teenage final this millennium, with Canadian Fernandez having pulled off a giant-killing run including victories over two former champions in Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber and top-five seeds Elina Svitolina and Aryna Sabalenka.
The 19-year-old looked the more nervous of the two initially and Raducanu surged into a 2-0 lead but Fernandez pegged her straight back and it was nip and tuck all through a brilliant first set until the 10th game.
The biggest difference between the two was perhaps Raducanu’s exceptional returning, and she piled on the pressure before taking her fourth set point with a forehand winner down the line, raising her arms aloft and letting out a huge ‘Come on’.
Four games in a row for Raducanu from an early break down in the second set took her to the brink of victory but Fernandez is a tenacious competitor and she saved two match points at 5-2 to force her opponent to try to serve it out.
Champion Emma Raducanu thanks the New York crowd after her stunning win
The unsuccessful efforts of trying to prevent a break point resulted in Raducanu cutting her leg, requiring a medical timeout at the most inopportune of moments.
Fernandez was furious but Raducanu composed herself, saved two break points and clinched victory in fittingly clinical style with an ace.
Of the medical timeout, the teenager said: “I didn’t actually want to stop because I thought it would disrupt my rhythm.
“But I couldn’t play on. I wasn’t allowed to because my knee was gushing with blood. 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.
“Going out there facing a break point after a two or three-minute disruption isn’t easy. I think I managed to really pull off the clutch plays when I needed to.”
As well as a cheque for £1.8 million – 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 but 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.”
Supporters at the Parklangley Club in Beckenham, where Emma Raducanu used to play, react as the teenager became US Open champion
Fernandez fought back tears on the podium but was widely praised for using the moment to commend the resilience of New Yorkers on the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
The 19-year-old admitted defeat stung, saying: “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.
“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.
“Emma is a very good player. She’s been playing incredibly these last few months with a lot of confidence. I unfortunately today did one too many mistakes. Hopefully we’ll have many more tournaments together and many more finals.”
There was immense support for Raducanu at the Parklangley Club in Beckenham, where she played from the age of six.
The final minutes of the game were incredibly tense as people watched, but shouts of “Emma, Emma, Emma” and tears of joy erupted throughout the room as the 18-year-old fell to the ground in New York after sealing the win.
Parklangley Club manager David Cooke says Emma will never forget her Bromley roots
Harry Bushnell, her former coach, was extremely proud and despite Emma making tennis look effortless, he insists her win came from nothing but hard work. He said: "She just did things first time of asking, everything just came so naturally to her.
"She worked her socks off, don't think for one second she just walks on a court and makes it happen, she knows what she is doing out there. She is a determined girl.
"It's just amazing to see her go from the age of six to eighteen and win a grand slam!"
The club manager David Cooke said Emma has never lost her roots.
She often returns to the club to help out, but this time he is hoping she will return with her new trophy.
He said: "Despite moving onto bigger and better things, she has always stayed true to her roots.
"She has come back and supported our junior programme and she hands out medals to our juniors.
"She is an all-round, grounded young lady that wants to constantly give back to where she came from.
"I hope Emma's going to come back with her trophy. It will be fantastic to see her back with that and celebrate."