When Emma Raducanu arrived at Flushing Meadows this year, she did not have the faintest idea of where to go. So unfamiliar was she with her surroundings, she needed help from her fellow players just to navigate the tournament’s vast grounds.
Her growth over the past three weeks since those timid first steps has been astounding as she outplayed everyone put in front of her. And under the lights of the Arthur Ashe Stadium on Thursday night she went even further, producing yet another brilliant performance to reach her first grand slam final.
Faced with a moment she has been dreaming of her entire life, Raducanu handled the occasion with the remarkable composure that has defined her rise as she outclassed Maria Sakkari, the Greek 17th seed, 6-1, 6-4.
In doing so, Raducanu became the first qualifier, man or woman, to reach a grand slam final in the Open era and the first British woman to reach a grand slam final since Virginia Wade’s triumph at Wimbledon in 1977. At the age of 18, Raducanu is now one step from the ultimate achievement in her sport.
“Honestly, the time here in New York has gone so fast,” she said after the match. “I’ve just been taking care of each day and, before you know it, I’m in the final and I can’t believe it.”
She will face another teenager, 19 year-old Leylah Annie Fernandez, after the Canadian extended her own astonishing run by scuppering the second seed, Aryna Sabalenka, 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-4. Together the two players, who last faced each other at junior Wimbledon in 2018, will contest the first grand slam final between teenagers since Serena Williams and Martina Hingis met at the 1999 US Open.
Standing between Raducanu and the final was one of the biggest servers and most athletic players on tour. Sakkari had unfinished business when she stepped on court: at Roland Garros this year, in her first-ever grand slam semi-final, she had faltered when she held match point against Barbora Krejcikova.
Sakkari’s drive was obvious at the start of the match. Over the first two games, Raducanu faced seven break points but she demonstrated her toughness by saving them all, and broke for good measure to lead 3-0. As Sakkari struggled to find her level, Raducanu grew. She seemed to occupy every part of the court, neutralising Sakkari’s weight of shot with her movement and effortlessly flipped from defence to offence. Sakkari sprayed unforced errors and found herself 5-0 down before Raducanu tidily closed off the first set.
Source: The Guardian