‘What a story!’ – Raducanu’s rise transcending tennis

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Emma Raducanu
Emma Raducanu is the first player in the Open era to reach the semi-finals of the US Open after starting in qualifying
Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York Date: 30 August-12 September
Coverage: Daily radio commentaries on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra/BBC Sport website and app, with selected live text commentaries and match reports on the website and app

Emma Raducanu’s US Open exploits are transcending tennis and capturing the public’s imagination with the 18-year-old trending on Twitter and being congratulated by a rockstar for reaching the semi-finals on her debut in New York.

And that support was echoed on both sides of the Atlantic as Raducanu became the first player in the Open era to reach the last four of the American Grand Slam having started her campaign in qualifying.

The Toronto-born sensation, who moved to Britain aged two, has powered her way to the semi-finals without dropping a set, with her ruthless groundstrokes complemented by a beaming grin and a sense that Raducanu is determined to soak up every moment of this dream run.

Virginia Wade, the last British woman to win a Grand Slam singles title in 1977 at Wimbledon, says there is not a box the teenager’s game does not tick, while Czech-American 18-time Grand Slam champion Martina Navratilova says Raducanu boasts a “really high tennis IQ and mental IQ”.

She has demonstrated that with impressive shot selection, composure and an ability to adjust and adapt to combat her opponent’s strengths, something Raducanu highlighted in her impressive victory against Bencic.

The teenager has also endeared herself to the Big Apple crowd – despite knocking out home hope Shelby Rogers in the last 16 – with applause rippling around the Arthur Ashe Stadium following every point she won against the Olympic champion on Wednesday.

But that is nothing compared to the support Raducanu is garnering back home as British tennis fans continue to search for someone to grasp the Grand Slam-winning baton from Andy Murray.

“Yes Emma” and “Go Emma” were trending in the United Kingdom, while fans on social media waded in with suggestions to rebrand the SW19 slope known as Henman Hill: Raducanu Rise, anyone?

Emma Raducanu
Raducanu has not dropped a set or been taken to a tie-break in New York

But just 10 weeks ago, before her surge to the Wimbledon last 16, only the most ardent tennis fans knew the name of a teenager ranked outside the world’s top 300.

That came after not playing competitively in the previous 15 months as the coronavirus pandemic wiped out the development tours underneath the main WTA Tour.

Last month Raducanu was collecting her A-level results – an A* in Maths and an A in Economics – and come Monday she will officially replace Johanna Konta as Great Britain’s highest-ranked female player as she climbs to the cusp of the world’s top 50.

Judging by the articulate and considered post-match interviews the 18-year-old has delivered throughout this major, it is a mantle she will take in her stride.

She will also have boosted her bank balance considerably, earning $675,000 (£490,000) for reaching the last four here having also taken home £181,000 in Wimbledon prize money.

It has been a staggering ascent and one Raducanu says she did not expect – in fact, her flight home was booked for after the qualifying rounds, though she admits having to reschedule it is “a nice problem to have”.

Meanwhile, while her coaches were fretting about missing practice after being caught up in bad traffic because of Hurricane Ida, Raducanu was completely relaxed about the situation, raising eyebrows by telling them “it’s OK if we miss it”.

“I don’t really stress out over many things,” she said. “I trust myself and it’s all mental at the end of the day.”

But while Raducanu may be merciless on court, she explains that any sort of “bad attitude” was “an absolute no-go” with her parents when she was growing up.

“I think that the calmness and the mental strength definitely comes from my upbringing,” she said. “I think my parents have both instilled in me from a very young age to definitely have a positive attitude on court.

“Out there on the court today, I was saying to myself, ‘This could be the last time you play on Ashe, so might as well just go for it and enjoy everything’.”

The teenager, more than likely wearing her favourite red outfit once more as she is “not going to change absolutely anything” at this stage, will get another outing at the iconic New York venue when she takes on Greek 17th seed Maria Sakkari on Thursday.

Despite entering the tie as the underdog, there will be few writing off Raducanu this time, nor will she be applying any extra pressure to herself.

“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 mean, 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.”

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