NEW YORK (Reuters) – Two years ago, Emma Raducanu was not sure tennis was the perfect fit and she kept her education as a backup option but there are no more doubts for the British teenager as her fairytale run takes her to her first major final at the U.S. Open.
After a stunning fourth-round appearance at her major debut at Wimbledon two months ago, Raducanu has shown that her grasscourt success was no flash in the pan by going even further at Flushing Meadows, after beginning her campaign as a qualifier.
A triumph in the U.S. Open final on Saturday would see the 18-year-old become Britain’s top-ranked female, at 24th in the world, when the rankings are updated on Monday.
She started this hardcourt major ranked 150th.
Raducanu credited her trips abroad during her age-group tournaments for developing the confidence to succeed on bigger stages.
“When I started having results early on on those trips, it definitely was eye opening that I could do something,” she told reporters on Thursday.
“But I never really realised that I would take tennis as a career until maybe two years ago.
“Yeah, I always have my education as a backup. I was doing it alongside my tennis. I had options. I still do. But obviously I’m a 100% in my tennis now.”
Born to a Romanian father and a Chinese mother, Raducanu said she was inspired by China’s two-time major winner Li Na while growing up.
Her biggest triumph until now was her 2019 title at an International Tennis Federation $25,000 event at Pune, India.
She has now become the first qualifier in both men’s and women’s tennis to reach a Grand Slam final and has done so without dropping a set in New York.
“I always had dreams of playing in Grand Slams but I just didn’t know when they would come,” she said, with her usual beaming smile on her face.
“To come this early, at this point in my career, I’ve only really been on tour for a month, two months since Wimbledon. It’s pretty crazy to me.
“I knew I had some sort of level inside of me that was similar to these girls, but I didn’t know if I was able to maintain it over a set or over two sets. To be able to do it and play the best players in the world and beat them, I honestly can’t believe it.”
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Robert Birsel)