By Luke Jensen, French Open Doubles Champion
Tennis fans, did you see the amazing US Open? At the beginning of the last major of the calendar year it seemed with Federer, Serena, Nadal, Venus, Thiem (last year’s men’s US Open champion) and other notables not playing would bring down the energy of what traditionally is a powerhouse event. But after this year’s tournament, I will never again underestimate what new faces and story lines can emerge when there is enormous opportunity. The new kids on the women’s side did not disappoint — with two teenagers reaching the final and British phenom Emma Raducanu bringing home the beautiful Tiffany Trophy.
Going into the US Open, Raducanu had only won seven matches at the tour level in only two events. She was awarded a last-minute wild card entry into Wimbledon and made the most of it by reaching the round of 16. After that run, she did not do much in “minor league” events and then got hot going to the finals in a WTA event in Chicago before heading to the Big Apple for US Open Qualifying. I want to stress Raducanu’s extraordinary accomplishment. She is the first qualifier to win a major in tennis history. Raducanu did not drop a set in her 10 matches to the victory. The closest set was in the second round of qualifying and that was 7-5.
So, let’s break it down: How does a teenage girl who just finished high school have such a massive rise to the top of the game? As an ESPN tennis analyst, I was able to interview Raducanu at both Wimbledon and the US Open during her wonderful runs at those events. The first thing that jumped out at me was her ability to embrace the pressure of being a main draw player. I have always believed there are many players who have the ability to win majors, but few who have the mental approach to actually win it.
Raducanu would consistently say how much fun she was having and how much she enjoyed playing on the biggest stages in the world. I think with her US Open victory we will see more youngsters who say, “It’s my time!” They will accept the challenge mentally, emotionally, and tactically when they step into that arena. The ATP saw this in the late 1980s and early 1990’s when Michael Chang won the French Open in 1989, then Pete Sampras won the US Open in 1990 followed by Jim Courier and Andre Agassi winning majors by 1992.
Finally, having vaccinated fans at the US Open making so much noise was a memorable experience. The Australian Government mandating players to be vaccinated to compete in the 2022 Australian Open is another step toward global safety and a path forward to normalcy. Meanwhile, keep an eye on the tournament teenagers in your area; they will use Raducanu’s example of what can happen with tremendous personal confidence and hard work. Maybe … just maybe the Cinderella glass slipper will fit once again!