Emma Raducanu shows coolness and resilience of a true champion | Simon Cambers

The 18-year-old showed tremendous composure from the start in her sensational straight sets victory to win the US Open

Emma Raducanu walked on to court for her first grand slam final with a smile, responded to the roar of the crowd with a gentle wave of her left hand, ready to go. If she was going to go down, she would go down on her terms.

We need not have worried. In the most intense of arenas, in uncharted territory, the 18-year-old won her first grand slam title and the greatest thing about it all was that from the first moment to last, with only one or two moments of mild doubt, it almost seemed inevitable.

Flanked by six members of the Original 9 – the women who founded the WTA Tour – including Billie Jean King, the 18-year-old Briton stood, smiling broadly as she posed for cameras, seemingly unbothered by the pressure of the occasion.

Dressed in the same predominantly red outfit that she wore throughout the tournament, Raducanu acknowledged the applause from the crowd who were packed into the Arthur Ashe stadium, knowing that the biggest audience of her life would probably be pulling for the Canadian, as close as they could get to having one of their own in the final.

Right from the start, the 18-year-old seemed to be at ease, holding serve to 30 in the first game, thumping a backhand cross-court on the last point and jumping up and down, shaking free any nerves that there may have been.

The crowd were with Leylah Fernandez but they could not fail to be impressed by the sheer brilliance of Raducanu, a thumping backhand return on the first point setting the tone on the Canadian’s opening service game.

Her coolness, calmness under pressure, one of her biggest assets over the entire two weeks, was clear for everyone to see. But it was her resilience that stood out, an incredible ability, at 18, in only her second grand slam tournament, to withstand pressure.

Leylah Fernandez (right) congratulates Emma Raducanu
Leylah Fernandez (right) congratulates Emma Raducanu after the British player’s 6-4, 6-3 victory in the final of the US Open in New York Photograph: Al Bello/Getty Images

Even when Fernandez saved five break points in the first game, she didn’t panic, her body language never changed and when she finally clinched the break, she pumped her fist and yelled “Come on”.

For all the pressure of the occasion, Raducanu just emitted confidence. Fernandez asked her lots of questions with her defensive skills but the British player seemed to have the answer every time. A big serve at the right time and a thumped backhand or forehand saved break points and even when she was broken, as she was at 2-0 in the first set, she bounced back immediately.

There were some nervy moments, an anxious look to her team when she missed a drive volley serving at 3-3, 15-15. But her temperament remained impeccable, as she showed in winning the best rally of the first set to hold for 4-3.

When chances to win the opening set came and went in the 10th game, she didn’t flinch, never went away from her natural game, her unerring desire to stay aggressive. And when she wrapped up the first set, she stood still, for a couple of seconds, before pumping her first and yelling “Let’s go”.

Having won nine matches in a row, including three in qualifying, each without losing a set, the momentum was with her but no one wins without withstanding difficult moments and when she fell a break down to 2-1, she bounced back again to break straight back for 2-2 with a stunning backhand return.

Each of Fernandez’s outstanding wins over Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber, Elina Svitolina and Aryna Sabalenka came in three sets and Raducanu knew the Canadian would not go away. Typically, the New York crowd got even more behind Fernandez, mostly because they wanted more of the incredible quality both players were creating. At 2-2, Raducanu seemed to grow again, holding serve under pressure and then, guessing right, ripping a brilliant forehand winner down the line to break for 4-2.

Two games from victory, the finishing line in sight, the heart must have been racing but her mind was clear. Eighteen years of age, closing in on victory, she looked like she was just having a friendly hit in the park.

But winning the last game – and the last point – is the hardest thing to do in tennis and Virginia Wade, the last British woman to win a grand slam singles title, took a deep breath.

And there was still time for drama. Of course there was. After missing two match points, thanks mostly to the effort of the outstanding Fernandez, Raducanu then needed a medical timeout because of a bloody leg, the result of a slide on one leg.

Fernandez looked rattled, Raducanu looked in pain, briefly, but she came out, saved break point at 5-3, 30-40 and then finished things off with an ace, calm as you like. As Tim Henman, sitting courtside, said soon after: “This is no flash in the pan, she’ll win more of these.”

Contributor

Simon Cambers

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Emma Raducanu overcomes early nerves to extend fairytale of New York | Bryan Armen Graham
Emma Raducanu was meant to have met her match in Belinda Bencic but she dismantled the Swiss in a masterclass

Bryan Armen Graham at Flushing Meadows

08, Sep, 2021 @7:06 PM

Article image
Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez usher in dynamic new era | Tumaini Carayol
Teenagers seemed to have been muscled out before the extraordinary form shown by the two youngsters at the US Open

Tumaini Carayol

11, Sep, 2021 @7:00 AM

Article image
Emma Raducanu salutes beaten Leylah Fernandez on ‘incredible’ tennis
Emma Raducanu said her US Open final opponent ‘was always going to play great tennis’, while Leylah Fernandez paid tribute to New York on the 9/11 anniversary

Tumaini Carayol

11, Sep, 2021 @11:57 PM

Article image
Emma Raducanu admits she expected an early exit at US Open
The British teenager Emma Raducanu, who has reached the US Open semi-finals at her first attempt, has credited her parents for her ‘positive attitude’

Tumaini Carayol

08, Sep, 2021 @8:49 PM

Article image
Emma Raducanu enjoying the moment before US Open quarter-final | Tumaini Carayol
Emma Raducanu has said she is ‘super-appreciative of the moment’ as the 18-year-old Briton prepares to face Belinda Bencic in the US Open quarter-finals

Tumaini Carayol

08, Sep, 2021 @7:00 AM

Article image
Emma Raducanu puts success down to ‘very hard-to-please parents’
Eighteen-year-old US Open winner says upbringing has given her mental strength to succeed

Sean Ingle Chief sports reporter

13, Sep, 2021 @4:53 PM

Article image
Emma Raducanu marches into US Open semis with easy win over Bencic
Emma Raducanu has still not dropped a set after beating Belinda Bencic 6-3, 6-4 to make the US Open semi-finals

Tumaini Carayol

08, Sep, 2021 @5:51 PM

Article image
Emma Raducanu: US Open winner could become Britain’s first billion-dollar sport star
PR experts agree the champion is a marketer’s dream – with strongly engaged online fans and talent and charisma to burn

Sean Ingle Chief sports reporter

13, Sep, 2021 @6:40 AM

Article image
Emma Raducanu: British 18-year-old makes tennis history with US Open final win
The 18-year-old Briton Emma Raducanu beat Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 6-3 to become the first qualifier to win a grand slam

Tumaini Carayol

12, Sep, 2021 @7:57 AM

Article image
Emma Raducanu’s US Open win was a glorious aligning of the fates | Jonathan Liew
Emma Raducanu’s victory came out of nowhere so it needs perspective – we cannot expect her to keep doing this in majors

Jonathan Liew

12, Sep, 2021 @4:39 PM