Raducanu’s Star Continues To Rise At The US Open

Emma Raducanu (photo: Darren Carroll/USTA)

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON, September 7, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Eighteen-year-old Emma Raducanu is making winning look routine. She’s dropped just 15 games in four main-draw matches at this year’s US Open, the fewest of any player left in the women’s draw.

On Monday afternoon, inside a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium enjoying the Labor Day holiday in the United States, the British sweetheart with the infectious smile and an intelligent game that’s mature beyond her years won 12 of 13 games from 0-2 down in the opening set – including 11 consecutive games – to beat Shelby Rogers of the United States, the last remaining American woman, 6-2, 6-1, in only 65 minutes.

Rogers, it should be remembered, took down No. 1 seed Ashleigh Barty of Australia just two days earlier in the previous round, coming back from a 2-5 and double-break deficit in the final set. By winning Monday, Raducanu became just the third qualifier in the Open Era to reach the US Open quarterfinals. Her storybook run in New York continues after reaching the Round of 16 at Wimbledon earlier this summer as a wild card.

Playing on the biggest tennis court on planet Earth didn’t seem to faze the teenager in the slightest. Instead, from the outset Raducanu grabbed the spotlight to beat another Top 50 opponent (Rogers is ranked 43rd), and she did so with a couple of tennis greats – Hall of Famers Billie Jean King and Virginia Wade – watching in person. After an early wobble, Raducanu established her rhythm and game-by-game garnered her momentum, winning point after point with an often-lethal forehand return. She hit 18 winners and made just 14 unforced errors while saving eight of nine break points she faced from the South Carolina native. Raducanu outpointed Rogers 65-42.

“Shelby is a great opponent, she has done so well in the US Open,” the 150th-ranked Raducanu said during her on-court interview. “I’m so happy to have come through and overcome some of the nerves at the beginning.”

When Raducanu was asked by ESPN‘s Pam Shriver about the other 18-year-olds making headlines at the US Open – Leylah Fernandez (who turned 19 on Monday) and Carlos Alcaraz, both who have also reached the quarterfinals – Raducanu said, “It definitely plays a part in motivation. Like, I wanted to join them as well.

“But everyone’s on their own trajectory, and I’m just so happy to have been able to focus on my game and into the quarterfinals.”

Later in her press conference, Raducanu added:

“It means a lot to have gone out there and to have performed. Shelby Rogers is an extremely experienced opponent, so I knew I would have to bring it today. To play on Ashe for the first time, it was a little bit of a nervy experience in the beginning. I was really proud of myself, how I managed to settle and regroup and find a level that at the end took me to the win.”

Raducanu’s one-sided victory advanced her to Wednesday’s quarterfinal round against No. 11 seed and Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, who eliminated 2020 French Open champion and No. 7 seed Iga Swiatek of Poland, 7-6 (12), 6-3, in two hours and seven minutes. It was the 13th victory in the past 14 matches for Bencic since winning the singles gold and doubles silver medals in Tokyo earlier this summer. Their 26-point tie break in the opening set was the longest of the tournament.

While Raducanu began the summer season ranked 366th, with her ongoing US Open success she will now be ranked inside the Top 80. If she can beat Bencic in the next round, she would bypass Johanna Konta (No. 47) and Heather Watson (No. 64) to become British No. 1.

Meanwhile, the fast Grandstand court was to Karolina Pliskova‘s liking and the No. 4 seed from the Czech Republic used it to her advantage to beat No. 14 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia, 7-5, 6-4, to reach the US Open quarterfinals for the fourth time. Pavlyuchenkova was trying to become the first Russian woman since Ekaterina Makarova in 2014 to reach the quarterfinals.

Pliskova, who leads the WTA in service aces, hit six to bring her season total to 347 after hitting 24 against Amanda Anisimova and 20 against Ajla Tomljanovic in her two previous matches. Next, this year’s Wimbledon finalist will face No. 17 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece, who edged out 2019 US Open champion and this year’s No. 6 seed Bianca Andreescu of Canada, 6-7 (2), 7-6 (8), 6-3, in a three-hour and 30-minute epic that finished at 2:13 a.m. Tuesday morning. It was Andreescu’s first loss after 10 straight US Open victories.

In quotes released by the WTA, Andreescu said: “I was expecting [a physical match] and I went out there with the right mindset, I think, and I did the best that I could. I wish I could have finished it in two sets, because I had my opportunities, but tennis is just like that sometimes. I take everything from this tournament and I just look at it, like ‘Wow, I really fought through that. That was crazy.’ I was cramping from the start of the third set, and I just kept fighting, and for me that’s all that matters. I did my best.”

Djokovic moves to within three wins of 21st major title

Novak Djokovic, the world’s top player needs to win just three more matches to capture his 21st major singles title, which would break his tie with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most in men’s history and become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to complete a calendar-year Grand Slam.

Monday evening on Arthur Ashe Stadium, Djokovic ceded the opening set to his feisty American opponent, 99th-ranked Jenson Brooksby, playing in just his eighth major singles match. Then, the 20-time major singles champion and current World No. 1 went to work. By the end of his two-hour and 59-minute fourth-round match, it was Djokovic who was raising his arms in victory, winning 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 to advance to the quarterfinal round against Matteo Berrettini, in a rematch of their Wimbledon final. He improved his career record at the US Open to 79-12.

“Brooksby is a very young, very talented player,” Djokovic said during his on-court interview with ESPN‘s Brad Gilbert after his victory. “I told him at the net that a very bright future is ahead of him. Definitely he’s a great player.”

Djokovic hit nine aces and 44 winners to 41 unforced errors, while Brooksby’s numbers showed four aces, 27 winners and 28 unforced errors. Djokovic broke his opponent six times in 12 opportunities and outpointed Brooksby 116-95.

In 25 Grand Slam matches this year, the Serbian has lost eight opening sets but remarkably remains undefeated. So, it’s understandable that Djokovic didn’t panic too much.

“Jenson was pumped, he had a clear game plan, he was executing all the shots very efficiently, and I was really on my back foot,” Djokovic said. “I didn’t have the rhythm, made a lot of unforced errors and he was reading the play very well for about a set and a half.”

Djokovic added: “I think the momentum changed midway through the second set; we played a couple of very long games. I lost my serve but I regrouped to re-break the next game and after that I started hitting more cleanly, hitting through the court. Whenever I needed a serve I found my serve, I hit my spots well, but all in all, it was a very physical battle, a lot of exhausting rallies. Credit to him for his performance tonight. It was fantastic.”

Otte stumbles out of US Open

No. 6 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy defeated 144th-ranked German qualifier Oscar Otte, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. But there’s much more to their Round of 16 match than the final score. That’s because while serving at 1-2 in the fourth set and trailing two sets to one, Otte stumbled awkwardly after he landed from hitting an overhead, did a backward somersault, and hurt his wrist. Although Otte won the point and later served out the game following a medical timeout, he wasn’t the same and didn’t win another game during their two hour and 25-minute match on Louis Armstrong Stadium.

“I said to him, he had a great run and he didn’t deserve to end like this,” said Berrettini during his on-court interview after the match ended. The Italian fired 11 aces and hit 44 winners against Otte to advance to Wednesday’s quarterfinals against top seed Novak Djokovic.

Otte, who earned $265,000 for reaching the Round of 16 plus 180 rankings points, tried to remain optimistic during press. He said: “I just go back home tomorrow and then try to get more clearance with the doctors and MRI. All I have to say right now is that the end wasn’t how I wanted it to end, of course. I’m pretty disappointed, but I can’t change it. All in all, would say still a very good tournament.”

Zverev extends winning streak to 15

No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany reached the US Open quarterfinals for the second straight year after defeating No. 13 seed Jannik Sinner of Italy, 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (7), in two hours and 26 minutes on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Now, he’s a win away from a possible semifinal showdown with World No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

The Olympic gold medalist and last year’s US Open finalist has won 54 of his 56 service games at this year’s final major. His victory over Sinner was his 15th straight dating back to his Tokyo Olympic gold medal run. During the run, the German has lost just three sets.

“Players with confidence who have played a lot of matches usually know what to do in these situations,” Zverev said during his on-court interview. “I think I played pretty good tennis in the second set and the first set as well. I feel like I played one bad game in the whole match and it made it very difficult in the third set, so I’m happy to be through in straights.”

Next, Zverev will face 46th-ranked South African Lloyd Harris, who achieved a career-best result with his 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 victory over No. 22 seed Reilly Opelka of the United States to reach his first Grand Slam quarterfinal. Harris slammed 36 aces and hit 62 winners against the gentle American giant, who tallied 24 aces and 49 winners of his own. Harris won 92 percent of his first-serve points and broke the big-serving Opelka six times in 17 tries.

“I think I can take a lot of positives out of that match,” Harris said during press. “I think I’ve been playing better and better as time has gone on.”

Monday’s US Open results

Tuesday’s US Open order of play

By the numbers

• For the first time in the Open Era (since 1968), there are no American men or women in the US Open singles quarterfinals. The last remain Americans, Reilly Opelka, Jenson Brooksby and Shelby Rogers, all lost in the Round of 16 on Monday.

Lloyd Harris is the first South African man to reach the US Open quarterfinals since Kevin Anderson in 2015 and 2017.

Emma Raducanu is the first British woman in 46 years to reach the Round of 16 of a major before turning 19 years old. The last one? Try Sue Barker, now a BBC tennis presenter, who achieved the feat in 1975.

Alexander Zverev is attempting to become the second man to win an Olympic gold medal and the US Open title. He would join Great Britain’s Andy Murray, who accomplished the feat in 2012.

“Quotable …”

“In New York I honestly haven’t been able to go out and see that much. I’m planning that all for the end where I’m just going to tee off on absolutely everything from food to sights, all of it.

“But to switch off, I think me and my team do a really good job of just enjoying each other’s company. We have some routines. We’ll go get dessert in Times Square, frozen yogurt. Yesterday was the Formula 1, so I managed to catch that in the morning. The Dutch GP. Yeah, that routine never changes.”

Emma Raducanu, 18, of Great Britain, on what she does to take her mind off tennis.