Emma Raducanu defies conventional tennis wisdom with fairytale US Open win

Emma Raducanu won the 2021 US Open having won a whopping 10 matches without dropping a set, thus writing her name into tennis history.

Emma Raducanu celebrates winning the 2021 US Open. (Image: Twitter/@usopen)

Tennis as a sport is not supposed to be easy at all. It’s not just the physical workload that takes a toll on the players, with constant travel and living out of a suitcase becoming a norm. It’s also the mental aspect of the sport, which can grind down even those at the top of their game. Players grind it out on the junior and then pro circuits for years sometimes, working towards a big break that might or might not come. Which makes the sight of 18-year-old Emma Raducanu practically waltzing to a US Open title all the more amazing.

Raducanu had announced herself to the world at Wimbledon earlier this year, where she got a wildcard. There she stunned everyone by making it to the fourth round. Indeed, were it not for breathing issues that forced her retirement from the match, she might have gone further.

Now, ranked 150th in the world, she is a one-time Grand Slam winner. And the manner in which she went about with her business was nothing sort of amazing.

Emma Raducanu – breaker of records in unique US Open

It doesn’t seem like it while watching her in action, but the US Open was only Raducanu’s second Grand Slam appearance. And this was the first one she had to qualify for.

Amazingly, she didn’t drop a single set throughout the course of the tournament – and that includes the qualifying rounds too. What’s more, she won every set without needing a tie-break.

She’s also the first qualifier in the history of the sport to have won a Grand Slam, proving just how monumental her win really is. Qualifiers usually pull off an upset or two at most in Slams. Not Emma Raducanu though.

The British-Canadian star pulled off one upset after another, dispatching off opponents with more experience as if it was the easiest thing in the world.

She went into the final as the favourite, even though her opponent Leylah Fernandez made plenty of waves of her own en route to the match.

What’s more, Fernandez went into the match with the crowd firmly behind her. Her father is Ecuadorian while her mother is Filipino-Canadian. Thus, she appealed to multiple demographics in New York City.

However, as the match went on, the crowd gravitated towards Raducanu. Her returns – a strong point in her game – caught Fernandez off multiple times, and she was forced to scramble around the court on multiple occasions.

Raducanu also corrected one glaring flaw that she’s shown during the US Open this year. Her serves at the start tend to be circumspect, meaning she has on occasion dropped service games early on.

That didn’t happen here, even though Fernandez’s early assault was relentless to the point that the first five games of the set stretched over 30 minutes.

And when she broke Fernandez late in the first set, she knew her moment had arrived.

‘Lack of winning mentality’ myth dispelled

Emma Raducanu came into this Grand Slam off the back of a wonderful showing in Wimbledon. However, she also found herself in the middle of a needless controversy after the Grand Slam.

Her retirement due to breathing issues led many to state she copped out because she felt she would lose the match. This led to the focus being shifted to her withdrawal rather than her performance, with many feeling she lacked a ‘winning mentality’.

First off, it is worth pointing out that criticising an 18-year-old Grand Slam debutant for lacking ‘mentality’ when she had defied all odds to reach the fourth round is in itself preposterous. But since when did logic stand in the way of some good old-fashioned unwarranted criticism?

Anyhow, back to the US Open. Raducanu proved without a shadow of a doubt that she belongs at the elite level. Her ability to screen out setbacks and turn up stronger during a match is amazing.

Despite what the scoreline suggests, this was not a simple match. Raducanu had to wait till almost the end of the first set to break Fernandez. And the Ecuadorian seemingly threw a spanner in the works by breaking Raducanu’s serve in the second set.

A service break can be a momentum shifter against ordinary players, but Raducanu showed once again that she is no ordinary player. Right after her serve was broken she broke right back, determined not to relent so easily.

It didn’t end there though. On her second championship point, she frustratingly found the net. Then she needed a five-minute medical timeout to tend to a bloody knee.

But in typical gutsy fashion, she finished the match with an ace. A fitting way to win your maiden title.

Shayne Dias

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