Emma Radacanu was a total unknown 90 days ago. Ranked in the 300s, not highly regarded in British tennis circles. Now, she’s the first man or woman to reach the US Open semifinals as a qualifier.
The 18-year-old today kept her incredible US Open debut going by upsetting an in-form Belinda Bencic 6-3, 6-4.
“I’m so pleased to have come through that. Belinda is such a great opponent and she’s an Olympic gold medalist, which is probably one of the biggest events in sport,” said Raducanu. “She’s a great player, and I knew it’s going to be an extremely difficult match. It took me some adjusting at the beginning to get used to her ball speed, yeah, how aggressive she was. Once I adjusted, I settled in. I didn’t overpress as much.”
The teen dropped the first two games of the match and at 3-1 down, rolled off five straight games to take the opener.
In the second, Bencic couldn’t match the Brit’s power and pace, and failed to convert two 0-30 chances as the youngster would not relent playing near air-tight tennis for 90 minutes.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
Raducanu becomes the first British woman to make the US Open semifinals since Jo Durie. And she’s the lowest ranked semifinals since an unranked Kim Clijsters made this final in 2009.
“I think to compare yourself and your results against anyone is probably like the thief of happiness, and everyone is doing their own thing,” she said. “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.”
Bencic, who had won the Tokyo gold medal and made the US Open semifinals in 2019, was disappointed in defeat.
“It was very difficult match for me today,” the Swiss said. “Definitely very disappointed that I couldn’t show what I really could have played or show what I can play.
“I just wasn’t able to do today, but obviously she played great, of course. She totally deserved to win. I just wish I could have made it a little bit harder and played better or play more my game.”
Raducanu will now meet Maria Sakkari who smoked former finalist Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 6-4. Sakkari – the first Greek to make the US Open semifinals – was nearly untouchable on her serve, at one point winning 22 straight points on serve.
“I served really, really well,” said Sakkari. “I didn’t realize, but Pam said I served, I don’t know how many points was it, 22 in a row? Wow, yeah. I said on court I was impressed. I’m very happy I managed my stress level and my expectations. Especially at the end of the match, it was quite tough to close it out, but I think I did quite well.”
In her second Slam semifinal, the 26-year-old Sakkari will now face the debutant Raducanu.
“She’s a new player on tour so I don’t know much about her. Obviously she’s having the tournament of her life. She deserves to be here. She has won all these matches,” Sakarri said. “But I wouldn’t call myself the favorite. I think we all have equal chances of winning the semifinals and then winning the title. I would give 25% to each starting tomorrow, then 50 to the two finalists.
“We are all for a reason here. We’re all playing well. It was not like we had – how many matches? – five walkovers. I’m excited to play a second semifinal this year.”
Also tomorrow, Canadian teen Leylah Fernandez returns to meet No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka. While Raducanu just faced her first Top 40 player, Fernandez has overcome a brutal draw with wins over former champions Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber, then World No. 5 Elina Svitolina. Now, the task is World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka.
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