Sport The day Emma Raducanu won her first Under 18 event.... aged 12
Emma Raducanu, 18, begins US Open final in front of 24,000 fans
Emma Raducanu, 18, is taking on Leylah Fernandez, 19, in front of 24,000 fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York - the first all-teenage women's final at Flushing Meadows in 22 years. On the line is a prize cheque for £1.8million - more than eight times Raducanu's current career earnings - as well as 2,000 ranking points, which would move the teenager up from her current standing of 150 to 23. The match was preceded by a poignant ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11, with a massive Stars and Stripes flag unfurled by female cadets, while a '9-11-01' stencil has been painted onto the court.
TheTennis Centre is a world away from the glitz and glamour of Flushing Meadows. Squeezed into the back of a public park, next to the West Coast mainline train track, it is an unremarkable place.
It is, however, home to a remarkable story: for it was here that the teenager who is currently the most talked about sportswoman in the world, developed the winning habit.will never forget New York but she will never forget the suburb of Wavertree, either.
In June 2015, the newly-crowned US Open champion was recruited to play a junior event at the Liverpool International Tournament. The competition was launched in 2002, the brainchild of Anders Borg, an ambitious Norwegian, to give players a different option to prepare for.
Britain goes wild for Emma Raducanu as fans cheer her on in US Open
The tennis ace, who won the first set of a thrilling final against Leylah Fernandez, was hailed as a role model and inspiration at a viewing party held at her home tennis club in Beckenham. 1/5 SLIDES © Provided by Daily Mail Fans across the country are crowding around their TVs and packing the pubs to cheer on Emma Raducanu in the US Open final 2/5 SLIDES © Provided by Daily Mail The British star, 18, became the first ever qualifier to win a Grand Slam and the first British woman to take home a title in 44 years 3/5 SLIDES © Provided by Daily Ma
Russia’s Marat Safin — then the World No1 — was the inaugural winner of the men’s event, when it was staged at nearby Calderstones Park.
What Borg really wanted to do, though, was provide the players of the future with a platform. In the last two decades, some of the biggest names have been to Liverpool, including Novak Djokovic (2005), Caroline Wozniacki (2006) and Eugenie Bouchard (2010).
But when Raducanu played, Borg — an Arsenal fanatic who is based in Oslo — was aware a different type of talent had arrived. She has shown over the course of the last fortnight that she will not hesitate to push boundaries and that was definitely the case in Liverpool.
‘I believe she was 12 when she came to us,’ Borg tells Sportsmail via Zoom. ‘Normally you can’t play Under 18 if you are below 13 but she was just about to turn 13. The fact she was able to play in — and win — an Under 18 event? Wow. When you saw the physical differences of the girls she was playing, she was tiny at the time.
Emma Raducanu is Britain's new golden girl with fairytale and historic US Open triumph
Emma Raducanu's meteoric rise to becoming US Open champion is one of the greatest sport stories in 2021.Rewind back to June 30th when Raducanu, ranked No 336 at the time, was competing in the first round of Wimbledon after being handed a wildcard and there would have been just a handful of people watching on as she defeated Vitalia Diatchenko in straight sets.
‘She did the same set-up as in America. Winning six matches against top opponents from all over the world. It was just incredible. I couldn’t believe my eyes. First time she won an ITF Under 18. She was so humble, so articulate and polite. And then she had that smile that could warm anyone’s heart. I guess that is why she has become so popular.
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‘Emma was dedicated but it was just the way she kept the ball in play at all times. She returned everything. Her mother was super sweet, so polite. Emma herself was the same and very intelligent. She speaks fluent Mandarin and Romanian. She is so smart, the full package.’
Borg has put his heart and soul into the event, which often goes under the radar, and he has been privileged to see what makes a champion at close quarters.
The magic Raducanu radiates, for instance, was something that Djokovic, who failed in his attempt to win the calendar Grand Slam on Sunday, also exuded.
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Emma Raducanu announced herself to the sporting world by becoming the first qualifier in history to win a Grand Slam following her unprecedented US Open run.Raducanu has gone from A Level student and world No 338 to US Open champion and new world No 23 in a matter of just three months.
‘With Novak, you could just hear it in the sound of his racket,’ Borg explains. ‘It was different, cleaner, like nothing I had heard. Like “woof”. He was 17 and it sounded magical. There was no doubt, I realised, he was going places big time.
‘With David Ferrer, he was incredible in another way. He would be in the gym in the morning, then he’d play. He’d then go back to the practice courts and finish the day in the gym. It was a daily routine, six hours of working on his game and physical abilities. His dedication was spot on.
‘Caroline Wozniacki had a game where she didn’t make mistakes, she was always putting her rivals under pressure. Eugenie Bouchard contested the Wimbledon final in 2014, four years after she won in Liverpool.’
The narrative that Raducanu has gone on to produce, though, is something from the realms of fantasy. Borg calls it the greatest Grand Slam win of all time and while he recognises her life has changed beyond comprehension, he is sure she will never forget that first success.
‘There has been an explosion in self-belief and ability,’ says Borg. ‘Six months ago, she was ranked 338. Wimbledon was important for her. To go through that (abandoning her match), for her to take some stick after it, it built her inner belief and character.
‘She was never going to let that happen again. In hindsight, that was valuable for her. We put Liverpool on the international map in terms of tennis. It wouldn’t be associated with it but for our event. Tennis is a sport for life and the more kids we can get involved, the better it is.
‘I know she liked Liverpool and I know she has very good memories.’
A look at each area of Emma Raducanu’s game as she looks to build on US Open win .
Raducanu’s return of serve is arguably her strongest asset. She attacks her opponents – most notable in the way she confronted the usually-aggressive Maria Sakkari in their semi-final, completely knocking the experienced Greek player out of her stride – taking the ball early and ramming it back over the net, generally down the line and with unrelenting depth. It was a tactic that the best players in the world proved unable to cope with.