Thursday, 13 June, 2024

'I don't want to let go of the trophy'


London, Sept. 12: Emma Raducanu says she does not want to let go of the US Open trophy after her fairytale in New York culminated in the ultimate happy ending.

The 18-year-old is the first British woman in 44 years to win a Grand Slam singles title and did not drop a set. She is also the first qualifier to win a major title.

"It means everything to hold this trophy and I don't want to let go right now," she told former British number one Tim Henman on Amazon Prime. "Yesterday there were weird feelings I couldn't put my finger on - I think that's just normal. When I came out it was business as usual, one point at a time.

"I had to fight hard for that first set and keep myself ahead in the second. In the key moments, I came out with some clutch serves."

Her sensational run at Flushing Meadows has captured the imagination of the public and she hopes her victory allows others to dream big.

"I've always dreamed of winning a Grand Slam. You just say these things. But to have the belief I did, and actually winning, I can't believe it," she said. "I first started when I was a little girl, but I think the biggest thing that you have visions of is the winning moment, and going to celebrate with your team, trying to find your way up to the box.

"That's been playing in my head, like, a couple of nights. I've fallen asleep to that."


'I'm just having a free swing'

The victory over Canada's Leylah Fernandez caps a remarkable rise for Raducanu, who only made her WTA main draw debut in June.

She was playing in just her second Grand Slam, having reached the fourth round of Wimbledon as a wildcard earlier this year.

Raducanu is the youngest female major champion since Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon in 2004 and the youngest Briton ever to win a Slam title.

"It shows the future of women's tennis and depth of the game is so great - every player in the draw has a shot at winning any tournament," she said in her on-court interview. "I hope the next generation can follow in the steps of some of the legends, for example, Billie Jean [King] right here."

She recovered from a nasty fall at 5-3 while she served for the match, saving two break points from the relentless Fernandez before converting her third championship point.

"I fell somehow and thought that would throw me off balance - I was praying not for a double fault!" Raducanu said. "The level was extremely high and I hope we play each other in many more tournaments and hopefully finals."

Raducanu came through 10 matches to win the title, including three qualifying rounds and beat Olympic champion Belinda Bencic and in-form Maria Sakkari in the quarter and semi-finals respectively.

"For me, I don't feel absolutely any pressure. I'm still only 18 and I'm just having a free swing at anything that comes my way," she said. "That's how I faced every match here in the States. Yeah, it got me this trophy, so I don't think I should change anything."

'I love you, New York'

Fernandez, who turned 19 on Monday, has had a stunning run in New York, beating defending champion Naomi Osaka, 2016 winner Angelique Kerber and second seed Aryna Sabalenka in the past few days.

She has shown tenacity throughout, winning crucial tie-breaks in four of her past five matches at Flushing Meadows.

The teenager also became a fan favourite with the crowds because of her engaging nature and brave strokeplay.

"Today is going to be hard but Emma played amazing. Congratulations," she said. "I am very proud of myself and having the crowd has been amazing. Thank you so much, New York. Thank you, everyone."

After answering questions, Fernandez asked for the microphone to deliver a message to the New York crowd on the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks.

She praised the city's toughness, saying: "I hope I can be as strong and resilient as New York has been the last 20 years. I love you, New York and hope to see you next year."

Neither Fernandez nor Raducanu was born when the attacks occurred, and Fernandez asked her parents on the morning of the match about their memories of the day.

"Obviously I don't know much about what really happened, but with the little information that I do have, I know that New York has suffered a lot the past years," she said. "Just having them [New Yorkers] here happy, lively, just going back to the way they were, having my back during these tough moments, has made me stronger and believe in myself."