Raducanu’s improbable U.S. Open triumph inspires a generation


Jeff Horne

This is the Arthur Ashe Stadium at the U.S. Open where Emma Raducanu captured the 2021 Women’s Title

Vinay Joshi, Business Manager

With a 108 mph ace, Emma Raducanu secured the 2021 U.S. Open title, defying expectations and ushering in a new era of women’s professional tennis.

Raducanu’s success seemingly came from nowhere. Prior to the 2021 U.S. Open, Raducanu, 18, had only played in one other Grand Slam tournament (Wimbledon) where she reached the Round of 16. Apart from that tournament, the British teenager had not won a WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) level tour match before winning the historic New York tournament.

In the weeks leading up to the U.S. Open, she was eliminated from the first round of a small WTA tournament, before reaching the final of a Challenger (a level below the main WTA tour) series tournament in Chicago. Despite this successful tournament, Raducanu was ranked #150 in the world when her miraculous run began.

Raducanu’s low rank meant that she had to begin her U.S. Open journey at a qualifying tournament. She stormed through three qualifying rounds before reaching the main draw.

Once Raducanu found her winning form, she did not look back.

Raducanu put together a 10 match win-streak, defeating Tokyo gold medalist Belinda Bencic in the quarterfinals and Maria Sakkari, the current world #12, in the semi-finals. Remarkably, Raducanu did not drop a set against anyone, making her run one of the most dominant in recent history.

Raducanu, now world #23, bested Leylah Fernandez, who is 19, in the final match of the prestigious tournament. Fernandez, now the face of Canadian tennis, had perhaps an even more improbable run to the final.

Fernandez, who started the tournament ranked world #73, shocked the tennis world when she pulled off a stunning upset against Naomi Osaka, the defending champion. Fernandez followed her third-round triumph by taking down former world #1 Angelique Kerber, fifth seed Elina Svitolina and second seed Aryna Sabalenka in succession. 

The stories of Fernandez and Raducanu serve as an inspiration to many but are particularly captivating for young female tennis players. With the two U.S. Open finalists being similar in age to high school students, their accomplishments are reflective of the success that young athletes can find in sports.

The PV girls’ tennis team was fascinated by Raducanu and Fernandez’s rise to the forefront of tennis. 

Senior Kavya Kalathur, a Varsity player for the girls tennis team, was especially enthralled by Fernandez’s three-set comeback win against Osaka. “Seeing her save all those breakpoints and beat someone as dominant as Naomi in a tiebreak was incredible,” Kalathur reflected. “I think she taught everyone a lesson in grit and resilience.”

The PV girls’ tennis team, a runner-up in the MAC last season, has historically performed well. In the past, they have accomplished a state title among several state appearances. This year, they will be led by sophomore Lauren Masengarb. With just one season under her belt, Masengarb already has an impressive tennis resume.

During her freshman season, Masengarb, who played #1 for PV,  won the individual MAC title en route to placing seventh in the state. Masengarb had never heard of Raducanu until she started taking down some of the biggest names in tennis. However, Raducanu’s U.S. Open victory has been significant for Masengarb. “Her performance really encourages me as a young female player. It shows me that no matter how much of an underdog I come into a tournament, I will always have a chance”, she commented. 

Talented, but young players such as Masengarb can look to Raducanu and Fernandez as examples of how to succeed despite these challenges. Although Raducanu’s career has just begun, her memorable and commanding U.S. Open title run will be cemented in sports history as an iconic underdog story—one that has already inspired countless young athletes.