It is a fairy tale come true for British teen tennis superstar Emma Radacanu, who stunned the tennis world by taking the crown at the US Tennis Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. In doing so, she became the first British female tennis player since Virginia Wade to win a major tournament in 44 years.
The 18-year-old first caught the tennis public’s eye when she played at Wimbledon, having been handed a wild card. Even then, she looked special, but when she pulled out during her match with Ajla Tomljanovic with breathing difficulties, it sounded warning bells. People thought that perhaps she might not have the right temperament for the big occasion.
Having beaten Sorana Cirstea in the third round on Court No. 1, expectations were high. Perhaps the pressure just proved too much.
Yet she was to prove her doubters wrong, and what better place to do it at than the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center at the US open? She soon showed what a special player she is. It took just three weeks and one of the most amazing progressions in a Grand Slam ever.
She beat fellow finalist 19-year-old Canadian Laylah Annie Fernandez 6-4, 6-3 in a match full of pace, power, and stunning shots. She finished the tournament on the highest note, without dropping a single set. It was the first Grand Slam final between two teenage girls since 2004.
If when Sportingbet published their article on “Who will be the next ATP tour stars” in the men’s game, they had done the same in the women’s WTA Tour, it is pretty sure that young Emma would not have featured. How could she?
Her professional career only started three months ago. She has never played a 3-set tour-level game, never won a match on the WTA tour, nor had she ever gained direct entry into a Grand Slam tournament. She is a virtual unknown, yet today she has risen to tennis stardom, and rightly so.
She is the youngest player to win a grand slam since 2004, when Maria Sharapova beat Serena Williams in the final at Wimbledon. She is also the only woman in the Open era to have won a Grand Slam title in so few attempts.
It will be fascinating to see what the immediate and long-term future holds for her. Her next tournament is Indian Wells, where she has been given another wild card. She has also entered other tournaments in October in Russia and Romania.
Her ranking has shot up from 338th to 22nd in record time, and in theory, she is in with a chance of qualifying for the WTA finals in Guadalajara. At the moment, she is in 14th place and needs just short of 400 points to get into the top eight and qualify. Can she do it? We will have to wait and see.