British teen qualifier Raducanu rolls into US Open semi-finals

·4-min read
Britain's Emma Raducanu celebrates her victory Wednesday over Swiss 11th seed Belinda Bencic (AFP/TIMOTHY A. CLARY)

British 18-year-old sensation Emma Raducanu became the first qualifier to reach the US Open semi-finals by defeating Tokyo Olympic champion Belinda Bencic 6-3, 6-4 on Wednesday.

But the world number 150, set to become the new British number one, had no clue about the historic impact of her display on the New York hardcourts.

Raducanu, only the fourth qualifier to reach a Grand Slam semi-final, made the Swiss 11th seed the highest-rated victim of her young career in making history on the New York hardcourts.

"It was a really tough match," Raducanu said. "I'm really glad to have come through."

But she had no perspective on her landmark achievement, having focused on tennis rather than milestones.

"I've actually got no idea about any of the records at all," Raducanu said. "It's the first time I heard I was the first qualifier to make the semis. I had no idea before that.

"I'm not here to chase any records right now. I'm just taking care of what I can do on the moment and on the match ahead. Haven't even started thinking about the next one yet."

On Thursday, Raducanu will face the winner of a later match between Czech fourth seed Karolina Pliskova, this year's Wimbledon runner-up, and Greek 17th seed Maria Sakkari to decide a berth in Saturday's final at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Raducanu, who would be the first qualifier to ever reach a Grand Slam final, made her Slam debut this year at Wimbledon and reached the fourth round.

She is trying to become the first British woman to win a Grand Slam title since Virginia Wade at Wimbledon in 1977 and the first British woman to win the US Open since Wade in 1968.

Raducanu became the youngest US Open women's semi-finalist since Maria Sharapova in 2005, although she is only a couple of months younger than Canadian 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez, who will face second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus in the other semi-final.

"To have so many young players here doing so well, it shows how strong the next generation is," Raducanu said.

"I'm just here taking care of what I can control and it's my own journey at the end of the day."

A first-time Grand Slam champion at this US Open has already been assured.

Only unranked Billie Jean King in 1979 and Kim Clijsters in her 2009 title run have reached a US Open semi-final with a lower ranking than Raducanu, who has not dropped a set at the Open.

"I'm just really enjoying the experience," Raducanu said. "Out there on the court, I was saying to myself, 'This could be the last time you play on Ashe, so might as well just go for it and enjoy everything'."

- Tough to the end -

Bencic broke Raducanu to start the first set but an errant Bencic backhand allowed the British teen to break back for 3-3.

"It took me some adjusting at the beginning to get used to her ball speed, how aggressive she was," Raducanu said. "Once I adjusted, I settled in. I didn't overpress as much.

"I found a way to win, but it was very difficult to play against someone at such a high level."

Raducanu smacked a forehand winner past Bencic to break again for a 5-3 edge, then held to take the first set in 36 minutes.

In the second set, Raducanu broke to lead 3-2 when Bencic netted a forehand and the Briton held three times to claim the match after 82 minutes.

"I was down love-30 in the last two service games so to hold was pretty big," Raducanu said. "Getting one point at a time, focusing on what I could control, landing first serves.

"She was going to be tough to the end."

Raducanu fired 23 winners against only 12 unforced errors.

Thursday would mark Raducanu's first match against either Pliskova, whose only major final before July at Wimbledon was at the 2016 US Open, or Sakkari, whose first Slam quarter-final came in June at the French Open.

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