US Open: 'Exceptional talent' Emma Raducanu living 'every 18-year-old's dream'

Emma Raducanu became the first woman from Britain to win a Grand Slam final after 44 years.
US Open 2021 Venue Flushing Meadows New York Date: 30-08-12 September Coverage: Daily radio commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra/BBC Sport website/app, with selected text commentaries and match report on the app and website

I first saw Emma Raducanu at the US Open on one of those hot and humid late-summer New York days.

The 18-year old was playing against Mayar Sherif, Egypt in the final round. Within minutes, I was sitting down on court five to observe the match. A colleague and me both thought the same thing: She is truly an extraordinary talent.

Raducanu had won some great wins since reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon in July. She was most notable for her run to Chicago's final of the WTA Challenger event.

The coaching team was concerned that fatigue could be a problem, despite only arriving in New York Monday. They also had three qualifying matches to play in New York over three days starting on Wednesday.

Although a flight home was booked for the weekend, it proved to be an unnecessary precaution as Raducanu had many miles to go on his longest trip.

This qualifier was the first to make it to the Grand Slam final. She likes to shop for her own groceries and makes her own breakfast. A lox bagel with salmon and cream cheese would be her first choice. On the occasional trip to Manhattan, frozen yogurt in Times Square is a good option.

Raducanu is accompanied by Andrew Richardson, Will Herbert, the LTA physio and Chris Helliar, her IMG agent. Iain Bates is the LTA's head for women's tennis and is also here. Richardson, who is left-handed has been the nominated right handed server in practice.

However, he hasn't seen her as much in the evenings.

"It hasn't been a lot. He says that she's kept her mouth shut.

"I had dinner with Andrew once, and her agent twice, but not Emma. She's been doing whatever she wants in her hotel room, keeping her distance."

Tim Henman (who is working in New York for TV) and Andy Murray (who has been following the tournament closely from the UK), also provided support. After Virginia Wade's fourth round win, Raducanu spoke backstage with Wade.

She didn't know that she would become the first British woman to win a Grand Slam final since Wade at Wimbledon 1977.

In her US Open semifinal, Emma Raducanu beat Maria Sakkari (17th seed) in straight sets.

As the fortnight progressed, the list of media requests has increased. Since the pandemic started, we have been granted one of our first radio interviews (masked), and there has been interest from Fox Asia, Fox New York Times, Fox Japan, Wowow, Fox Japan, and even Der Spiegel from Germany.

Naturally, ESPN is the host broadcaster in the United States. Raducanu was charming and engaging throughout and gained a new fan during her frequent visits to the ESPN set.

Chris McKendry, host of the show, said to me that she had the same grace on court as she does in public.

She's calm and collected. She is composed and well-spoken. Her story about going to traditional school and her friendships outside of tennis is amazing. It keeps her grounded.

"She seems very interested in other subjects. We were discussing her studies the other day and she revealed that she has a great brain for numbers. She shared with me that Wall Street is on her bucket list.

I don't want her to lose heart, but they often require you to ring the exchange bell if you win the tournament. It is not every day that an 18-year old champion tennis player would like to talk about Wall Street.

Raducanu has met all of her challenges head-on. She fell asleep at nine o'clock on the night that the tornado warning and torrential rain brought such destruction and flooding to the region,

She was scheduled to face Zhang Shuai in her second round match at 11 AM local time the next morning. It took her 90 minutes to travel from Manhattan. Raducanu was unable to attend her first practice session but appeared completely unaffected.

It is not a good idea to play in the Arthur Ashe Stadium. There are 24,000 seats, 360 LED lights that shine down from the roof during night sessions, and digital billboards 10 metres high which display the names of players in bold, flashing letters.

Then there's the time away. This trip is now in its seventh day, which is quite a contrast to the 15 months of training and studying at home during the pandemic.

Emma Raducanu may have more in common than any other teenager.

"Are you missing your parents and home?" I asked her one time, in reference to the many weeks she spent in San Jose and Chicago, Pennsylvania, Chicago, and now New York.

"Isn’t that every 18-year old’s dream?" Her reply was well-timed.