For Raducanu and Fernandez, the magical race goes on and on

Here they are again. For the second straight day at the US Open – or maybe it was the fifth, or the 10th, depending on when the count s...


Here they are again.

For the second straight day at the US Open – or maybe it was the fifth, or the 10th, depending on when the count started – a teenage girl did what she wasn’t supposed to do.

Much like Canada’s Leylah Fernandez did on Tuesday, Britain’s Emma Raducanu pushed her way through a player who had every right to believe the day would be her own, knocking out 11th-seeded Swiss Belinda Bencic, 6 -3, 6-4, in 82 minutes, and giving the US Open two semi-finalists unable to legally celebrate their success with an alcoholic beverage.

How absurd is all of this? Consider Raducanu ranked 150th in the world and made three qualifying matches just to secure a place in the main draw. She clearly wasn’t expecting it: she had booked a return flight for immediately after the qualifying tournament.

She continues to be as shocked by her success as anyone.

“I didn’t expect to be here at all,” Raducanu said after becoming the first qualifier to advance to the US Open semi-finals in the Open era. “Out there on the field today, I was like, ‘This might be the last time you play Ashe, so you might as well go out there and enjoy it all. “”

As impressive and surprising as Raducanu was at her first US Open, until Wednesday she had yet to beat a seed. Fernandez had. She entered the quarter-finals on Tuesday after beating defending champion Naomi Osaka and veteran German Angelique Kerber, former world No.1 and three-time Grand Slam champion. Fernandez, ranked 73, backed up those wins with a touching three-set upset from fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.

Across the net from Raducanu on Wednesday stood Bencic, the recently crowned Olympic gold medalist, a gentle and powerful 24-year-old Swiss who has been a mainstay of the Top 20 for the past three years, reaching the fourth place in the world. ranking in February 2020.

No problem.

Much like she did in her fourth round game, Raducanu started off with a minor hiccup, losing the first game she served and losing 0-2 in the first set. But she was successful with Bencic from there. At the end of the sixth game, she was tied. By the end of the ninth, she had won the first set.

She beat Bencic in Game 5 of the second set and sailed extensively from there, giving an easy appearance to a game she has little experience with at the top of the sport.

Unlike Fernandez, who specialized in a form of tennis that resembles opera – long afternoons and evenings filled with wild swings and catchy dramatic moments – Raducanu’s New York experience has been a series of routine days in the office, of making players with much more experience than she looks bad in tennis.

“I just wish I could make it a bit more difficult and play better or play my game more,” Bencic said disappointed after the game.

Raducanu does not attrition in tennis. She plays as if she knows the hours after her matches will be filled with autograph signatures, selfies with a legion of fans and charming a relentless beast known as British sports media. She quickly completes business in the field.

Including the qualifying tournament, she has made eight appearances on that trip to New York and has yet to lose a set. It’s a strangely charmed race. On match point against Bencic, she hit the edge of her racquet, then watched it buckle into the back corner of the field.

“She solves problems, adjusts her game, plays on her terms, and she’s got a game big enough to just beat people,” said Tim Henman, the former UK tennis star who comments on tennis for Amazon Video, of Raducanu.

At first glance, Fernandez and Raducanu may seem similar. The teenage girls – they were both 18 until Fernandez turned 19 on Monday – they have spent the past 10 days capturing the hearts and imaginations of New York’s loud and emotional crowds with an ease that Novak Djokovic can only dream. They have been participating in the same junior level tournaments for years.

Furthermore, both are the product of mixed-race parents – Raducanu’s father is Romanian and his mother is Chinese, while Fernandez’s father is from Ecuador and his mother is Filipino. Their families have since moved from the countries where their wonders were born. Raducanu was born in Canada but lives in England. Fernandez spent much of his childhood in Montreal, but lives and trains in Florida.

Much of the similarities end there.

Raducanu is listed at 5ft 7in, but comes across as much larger than that. She is long and lean and glides across the pitch, staying low to the ground, occasionally scratching her knees on the pitch as she crouches down to save a backhand in the flashy style of retired Polish player Agnieszka Radwanska.

She often shoots the ball a few inches from the net to the baseline on the other side, then pushes forward, looking for the first chance to complete the point as quickly as she can. She failed four shots to place the winner on the fifth. If there’s any hint of an opening, she grabs it, curls up, and uses the fluid leverage of those long limbs to whip a kick to the corner of the pitch.

Fernandez is listed at 5-6, but the power it generates seems like a mystery to tennis physics. She can throw her triple-digit serve and, taking her place on the baseline, which she rarely gives up, she can fire lasers, especially on her forehand, even if she barely takes a backswing.

Raducanu can’t help but say how shocked she is at her success. Fernandez said she expects to beat Osaka as soon as she steps onto the pitch. After her victory over Kerber, she said she had long believed her game would take her to this level.

Raducanu has spent the last few years balancing school and tennis, attending Newstead Wood School in London and taking her college entrance exams earlier this year, around the same time she was making her tournament debut. high level on the women’s circuit. She entered Wimbledon with a wild card which she won with a few wins at a lower level tournament in Nottingham in June.

Fernandez has been all about tennis for years. This is his seventh Grand Slam tournament.

Raducanu’s parents work in finance. They are reaping its success from their home in England, unable to make it to the United States without a special exemption that takes several weeks to process and which did not appear to have been worth the effort. She said she had spoken to them sparingly lately. Raducanu joked that they “ghost” her when she tried to text them after her game on Monday.

Over the past two years, she has worked with a series of coaches from the British tennis aristocracy, including Nigel Sears, Andy Murray’s stepfather.

Fernandez’s mother has been on court in every game. Her father, Jorge, is also her coach, and he talks to her every day, sending her game plans for his next game. It has developed largely without the participation of Canada’s national tennis program.

Now it is on the rarefied ground of the semi-finals of a Grand Slam. Fernandez will face second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka from Belarus. Raducanu will face the winner of Wednesday night’s match between Maria Sakkari of Greece and Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic.

After that, win or lose, the klieg lights that always follow the kind of breakout performances Raducanu and Fernandez put on will undoubtedly arrive, an experience that has engulfed many adolescent freaks as their lives begin to fill with. obligations to sponsors and to live up to the expectations that their moving performances aroused.

“I really hope everyone protects them,” Bencic said of Fernandez and Raducanu, noting how good their success could be for tennis. “Not to try to, not to destroy, but to put so much pressure and hype around them that it becomes too much.”

It’s not how it usually happens, but for now, it’s good to think it might.

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Newsrust - US Top News: For Raducanu and Fernandez, the magical race goes on and on
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