A lot of tennis fans are probably still pinching themselves after what happened in the US Open. To see a young player like Emma Raducanu take the tournament by storm and end up lifting the trophy at Flushing Meadows was the stuff of dreams — the kind of fairytale story usually reserved for movies or TV dramas. But this was the real thing. Nine matches, including three qualifiers, and not a single set dropped — those are the bare facts of the 18-year-old’s incredible triumph which defied the Betdaq odds.
Raducanu has all the makings of a world star. She represents Great Britain having grown up in London after being born in Canada to a Romanian father and Chinese mother. She is well-spoken in interviews, has a sense of humour and a bubbly personality, and you can already imagine the global brands rubbing their hands in anticipation of partnering with this hugely marketable young player.
But caution must be exercised here. There is a danger of getting swept away in Raducanu’s success and assuming she will be challenging at the business end of Grand Slams from January’s Australian Open onwards. The reality is that this US Open triumph was a bolt from the blue. Yes, Raducanu is an extremely talented player with huge potential, but to place too much expectations on her shoulders at such a young age would be a mistake.
In many ways, the stars aligned for her at Flushing Meadows. Top seeds fell like bowling pins throughout the US Open’s early stages, paving the way for the kind of run that Raducanu could have only dreamed of. She faced none of the world’s top 10 players en route to the final, where she defeated the unseeded, if talented, young Canadian Leylah Fernandez. That kind of passage through to a Grand Slam final will probably never present itself again, and you can bet that Raducanu will find it tough to win another major tournament in the near future.
What she did show is that she has the potential to become one of the world’s best, but the 18-year-old is unlikely to realise that potential if too much expectation is heaped upon her at such a young age. The reception she’ll receive at Wimbledon next year will be rapturous, regardless of what happens between now and then, but it must be tempered with a realisation that Raducanu is still in her formative years as a tennis player.
For now, the best thing to do is simply celebrate her success and not worry about the future. Winning the US Open title has seen her rise from number 150 to number 23 in the WTA rankings, which is a dramatic increase, and expecting her to carry on and win multiple Grand Slams in the near future is unrealistic. Raducanu’s US Open triumph is one of the most incredible sporting stories of recent years, and we should not let the significance of the victory pass us by in getting too wound up about what’s next for her.
There is no doubt that Raducanu will be under the media spotlight from now on, but she deserves a chance to revel in her success away from the glare of the spotlight.