Emma Raducanu is only playing her second Grand Slam tournament
|Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York Date: 30 August-12 September|
|Cover: Daily radio commentary on the BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra / BBC Sport website and app with selected live text commentary and match reports on the website and in the app|
British teen Emma Raducanu reached the US Open final as her meteoric rise continued with a stunning straight-set win against Greek Maria Sakkari in New York, who was ranked 17th.
Raducanu, 18, extended her dream run with a 6-1 6-4 win, in which her dominance was once again almost unbelievable.
She will be the first female qualifier to reach a Grand Slam final and will face another teenage girl against Leylah Fernandez on Saturday.
Raducanu is the first Briton in a major individual final in 44 years.
Observed by Virginia Wade – the last woman to accomplish this feat at Wimbledon in 1977 – Raducanu claimed another fearless and ruthless victory that stunned the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
After Raducanu confidently knocked off her first match point with a volley, she immediately dropped her bat on the pitch and covered her mouth with both hands.
She quickly broke out into a beaming smile before receiving the applause of an enthusiastic crowd on the largest tennis court in the world.
“The time in New York went by so quickly, I took care of it every day and three weeks later I’m in the final. I can’t really believe it,” said Raducanu.
After surviving three qualifiers to reach the peloton, she hasn’t lost a set in any of her nine games at Flushing Meadows.
It is only Raducanu’s second Grand Slam tournament and the fourth tour-level event of her career.
In addition, Raducanu is:
- the youngest British Grand Slam finalist in 62 years since Christine Truman reached the French Open final in 1959 at the age of 18
- the first British woman in 53 years to reach a US Open final after Wade in 1968
Before her run to the round of 16 at Wimbledon this summer, Raducanu was 336 in the world rankings.
This win puts her on the verge of the top 30 after she was already confident of becoming number one British women by finishing the last four at Flushing Meadows.
Most importantly, the Kent teenage girl – who also graduated from high school this summer – has the chance to win one of the most prestigious titles in tennis when she takes on the 19-year-old Canadian at 9:00 p.m. BST on Saturday Fernandez arrives.
Given the one-sidedness of the victory over Sakkari – and those before it – Raducanu will not be impressed by the opportunity.
Virginia Wade, Britain’s last female Grand Slam champion, saw Raducanu’s last win over Ashe and described the teenager’s game this week as “ticking all the boxes”.
A quick start pays off for Raducanu. the end
Reaching the last 16 at Wimbledon on her Grand Slam debut catapulted Raducanu to fame, but somehow she managed to surpass what she achieved there with the extraordinary performances in New York.
Once again, she dismantled a much more experienced opponent with such ease that it staggeringly belied her age and experience.
Former British number one Greg Rusedski said her performance against Sakkari was “worthy of the world’s number one”.
French Open semi-finalist Sakkari, like her opponents before her, was puzzled by Raducanu’s demeanor and execution. The Greek, who also wanted to reach her first Grand Slam final, was overwhelmed by Raducanu’s intensity and could not find a solution to negate it.
Raducanu had seven breakpoints in their first two service games and saw them all to hold both and take a 3-0 lead with a break in between.
Frustrated with her inability to take her chances, Sakkari grumbled at her box and complained to the referee before running off to swap her skirt on the first change.
In contrast to Sakkari’s fearful demeanor, Raducanu seemed completely unimpressed by the opportunity.
That continued when the Briton, supported by a few fans in Union Jack colors and waving flags, won all the crucial points on the way to the first set in 36 minutes.
Nerveless finish as Henman provides inspiration
Raducanu’s clean ball game and serenity showed in the stats: the Briton hit 17 winners and 17 easy mistakes, compared to 17 winners and 33 easy mistakes by Sakkari
Being the front runner is a position Raducanu has got used to at Flushing Meadows, and when they took the 2-1 lead in set two, there seemed little way back for Sakkari.
Pressure continued to apply in each of the Greek’s next two service games – but she managed to hold and maintain hope by remaining a single glitch.
With the Greek player’s family looking tense as they watched, Sakkari saved five breakpoints in a momentous hold that took nearly 10 minutes to score 4-3.
After exchanging the handles, Raducanu then had the opportunity to serve for the match.
A stubborn forehand gave Sakkari a 15-0 lead before Raducanu found a first serve that could not be returned and led to a loud roar “Come on!”, Which signaled the Briton’s relief.
A nervous forehand down the line was perfectly timed for 30-15 and another piercing baseline return made a match point.
With a place in the US Open final beckoning, there was no sign of nervousness as she sealed the win with a forehand volleyball.
Afterward, Raducanu said she sought reassuring assistance from former UK number one Tim Henman, who stood alongside the court in his role as a television analyst, before serving on match point.
“Tim is such a great inspiration to be honest, he told me to take it one by one,” she said.
“In moments like these you definitely can’t get beyond yourself and you have to stay present.
“I am grateful to Tim for everything he has done for British tennis and for me.”
New York’s teenage kicks signal a changing of the guard
At the start of the Thursday night session, Canadian teen Fernandez secured her spot in the final by shocking Belarusian runner-up Aryna Sabalenka.
Unseed Fernandez, who turned 19 on Monday, won 7-6 (7-3) 4-6 6-4 to beat a tense semi-final.
Raducanu’s victory then ushered in the eighth Grand Slam final in the Open Era between teenagers.
It is the first since the US Open in 1999, when American hope Serena Williams defeated Swiss Martina Hingis.
The success of Raducanu and Fernandez crowns a tournament in which a multitude of young stars filled the void of several big names – notably Williams, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal – with outstanding performances.
Martina Navratilova, the 18-time Grand Slam individual champion, said the success of Raducanu and Fernandez was a “changing of the guard” moment.