Emma Raducanu ‘Plays Fearless,’ ‘Has Nothing to Lose’

  • 18-year-old breakout star Emma Raducanu is on her way to her first Grand Slam title game.
  • She beat world No. 17 Maria Sakkari in straight sets to advance to this weekend’s US Open final.
  • Sakkari said Raducanu is lethal because she “plays fearless” and “has nothing to lose.”

Emma Raducanu is the wunderkind of the 2021 US Open.

After upsetting players ranked in the top-20 in back-to-back matches, the 18-year-old became the youngest player to reach a Grand Slam final in 17 years. Not since a 17-year-old Maria Sharapova took home the 2004 title at Wimbledon has such a young star made it to tennis’ biggest stage.

Emma Raducanu celebrates her US Open semifinal victory.

 

Raducanu celebrates her US Open semifinal victory.

Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

Raducanu’s latest victim — world No. 17 Maria Sakkari — took just five total games in the straight-set loss against the British teen. And she explained after the match that Raducanu is such a lethal adversary because “she plays fearless.”

“She absolutely goes for it,” Sakkari said in her post-match press conference. “She does the right thing, actually. She goes for it. She has nothing to lose.”

“She’s enjoying herself,” Sakkari added.

Emma Raducanu (left) shakes hands with Maria Sakkari.

 

Raducanu (left) shakes hands with Maria Sakkari.

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Raducanu agreed with that assessment, more or less. In her own press conference, she admitted that “being young, there is an element of you do play completely free” but added that she’ll likely start to feel pressure of her own as she gets older and accumulates more experience.

“Honestly, right now, I’m just thinking of the game plan, how to execute, and that’s what’s landed me in this situation,” Raducanu said. “It hasn’t been focusing on who’s expected to win this match or that one. I think it’s just taking care of the day, and that’s what I’m doing quite well at the moment.”

Youth won’t offer her much of an advantage when she takes the court for the final. Her opponent, Canadian up-and-comer Leylah Fernandez, just turned 19 and is only two months older than Raducanu.

Leylah Fernandez.

 

Leylah Fernandez.

AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Fernandez has found a way to defy expectations and knock out some of the game’s brightest stars, including Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber, Elina Svitolina, and Aryna Sabalenka en route to a spot opposite Raducanu in the all-teen final. Perhaps she, too, has benefitted from the lack of pressure that comes with her age.

Raducanu and Fernandez will face off in Flushing Meadows for the ultimate prize Saturday at 4:20 p.m. Fans stateside can tune in to coverage of the match on ESPN.

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