Athlete in Focus: Emma Raducanu

Written by: Justin

Edited by: Jagat

Visual by: Sarah

On Sunday September 12, 18-year-old qualifier Emma Raducanu capped off her historic run at the US Open by winning her first Grand Slam title, and becoming the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam title.

Raducanu was born in Toronto, to her father from Bucharest, Romania and her mother from Shenyang, China. Her family moved to England when she was two years old. It was in England when she picked up the racket at the age of five. However, as a child she participated in various sports including basketball, golf, karting, motocross, skiing, horse riding and ballet. 

As she grew up, her passion for tennis blossomed, and in 2018, Raducanu decided to turn pro. Throughout 2018 and 2019, she altered between junior and professional tournaments, never really finding success at the professional level. Raducanu had her most notable achievement before the US Open which was winning an ITF $25,000 prize tournament in December 2019.

Due to the pandemic and her parent’s insistence that she complete her high school degree, 2020 was not her most successful year. Raducanu recalled her parents “both came from very academic families”, which would explain her parent’s insistence to take some time off tennis to complete high school and earn her diploma. Regardless, there was still a glimpse of hope for Raducanu’s tennis career, made evident by her win at the LTA British Tour Masters in December 2020.

Raducanu began 2021 ranked at 345th. She proceeded to rise to 179th by reaching Wimbeldon’s fourth round in her Grand Slam debut. Upon her arrival at the US Open, Raducanu had a ranking of 150th, armed with just one Grand Slam appearance to her name and a back-up flight booked to head out of town just in case she failed to make it out the qualifying stages. 

After winning 3 matches, she made her way to the main draw. Raducanu then had her Cinderella story proceeding to win 7 more matches to win the trophy. In which she displayed the composure of a veteran. The 18 year old won all 20 sets she had played across her 10 victories, becoming the youngest woman to win a major championship since 2004 and the first woman to win the US Open title without dropping a set since Serena Williams in 2014. 

In the finals, she beat fellow teenager Leylah Fernandez in two sets, 6-4, 6-3. The battle between Raducanu and Fernandez was the first all-teen women’s final since 1999, replicating 17-year-old Serena Williams’ victory over 18-year-old Martina Hingis. It was also the first time two unseeded players made it to a major final across all men’s and women’s competitions. 

Raducanu’s win over Fernandez ended Fernandez’s remarkable run at the flushing meadows. On her way to the finals, she had beaten four straight seeded women, each in three sets: defending champion Naomi Osaka and 2016 champ Angelique Kerber, No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka and No. 5 Elina Svitolina. This was only Fernandez’s seventh major tournament and first time making it past the third round. Despite her loss, the 19-year-old made a huge jump in the rankings, going from 73rd to a career-best 28th! 

Emma Raducanu’s qualifier-to-champion run vaulted her 128 spots in the WTA rankings to a career-high No. 22. She also became the No. 1 ranked British player and the first British woman to win a Grand Slam singles title since Virginia Wade in 1977. 

Her victory at the US Open was the most unlikely, unprecedented and improbable thing to happen. Nevertheless, the newest major champion’s future is brighter than ever, so it won’t be surprising if she keeps pace with her success and wins even more Grand Slam titles. 

Emma Raducanu. Remember the name, because she is now, and forever, a Grand Slam champion.

Works Cited