Emma Raducanu said she fell asleep sometimes to visions of running through the stands to celebrate a Grand Slam title and on Saturday in New York, lived the moment after capturing the US Open title.
The British 18-year-old beat 19-year-old Canadian Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 6-3 to become the first qualifier to win a Slam title, rolling through 20 sets without loss to hoist the trophy.
“It’s an absolute dream. You just have visions of yourself going up to the box, hugging everyone, celebrating,” she said. “For that moment to actually happen, I’m just so grateful.”
Her childhood visions returned as her epic run pushed her to becoming the youngest Grand Slam champion in 17 years and the youngest US Open winner since 17-year-old Serena Williams in 1999. She was the first qualifier to
THE MODERATOR: Emma, how is your day going?
Day is going great. How is yours (laughter)?
THE MODERATOR: Could you give us your thoughts on the match.
Yeah, I thought from the very beginning I knew it was going to be an extremely difficult match because Leylah, she’s played some unbelievable tennis, taking out a lot of the top 10 this week. I knew that I’d really have to bring my game.
I was just trying to focus as much as possible on one point at a time. There were some really great battles. I really had to dig deep to face quite a bit of adversity in both sets.
I’m just proud of how I managed to stick in and come through in the end.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
I mean, it’s an absolute dream. You just have visions of yourself going up to the box, hugging everyone, I mean, celebrating. That’s something that you always think of, you always work for.
For that moment to actually happen, yeah, I’m just so grateful for my team that are here with me, the team that are back home, the LTA, every single person who supported me along this journey.
If someone had told you ahead of Wimbledon that by the end of the summer you’d be a Grand Slam champion, what would you have said to them?
No, I wouldn’t have believed it at all, because at the beginning of the grass courts, I was coming fresh off my exams. I had three weeks to practice before my first tournament. Yeah, I just built up every single match, every single win.
I mean, I thought Wimbledon was such an incredible experience. Fourth round, second week, I couldn’t believe it. I thought, what a great achievement.
But I was still hungry. I was working hard after the grass. I didn’t have much time off. Then straight back out here on the States. With each match and tournament and week, I think I’ve really built in terms of confidence, in terms of my game, in terms of my ball striking. Everything came together today.
Yeah, I think to pull off some of the shots I did in the big moments when I really needed it was just an accumulation of everything I’ve learnt in the past five weeks.
Are you at all surprised at how relatively easy this was at least on paper? Didn’t drop a single set, no tiebreak in any of the sets. Only your second Grand Slam. Does that make sense to you or are you still surprised by it?
Yeah, I’d say even though I didn’t on paper drop a set, I think I faced a lot of adversity in every single one of my matches. I can pick moments where I was down. Even if the scoreline was showing one thing, the dynamic of the points in the games, there were long deuce games. Just to come through those are important.
I think what I did very well this tournament was press in the moments that I really needed to. I guess that’s why I didn’t drop a set on paper, even though all of the matches were extremely challenging.
Can you walk us through the moments where you had that long point, slipped, fell, scraped your leg, then took the slow walk to the chair. What was going on, through your head?
Yeah, it was either 30-All or deuce. It was a pretty incredible point. She hit an amazing backhand line. I was giving it everything I had. I fell. My knee cut pretty bad.
I didn’t actually want to stop because I thought it would disrupt my rhythm, seeing as I was going to be serving 30-40, and to have such a long break after a point...
But I couldn’t play on. I wasn’t allowed to because my knee was, like, gushing with blood. The chair umpire said I needed to get it treated right away. I guess I just went over and was really trying to think what my patterns of play were going to be, what I was going to try to execute.
Yeah, going out there facing a breakpoint after a two-, three-minute disruption isn’t easy. I think I managed for sure to really pull off the clutch plays when I needed to.
Back to the match point. You weren’t able to convert a couple. What happened when you stepped up to the line? What were your thoughts when you fired the ace for the championship?
Yeah, of course having match point on Leylah’s serve, it was for me, even in that service game, I was just thinking it was a bonus because she was serving. She’s allowed to play good points because she’s a great player.
I had a chance with a forehand midcourt. I went for it. That’s what got me into that position to have a match point. I went for it again and misfired.
When I was serving for it, I faced two breakpoints I think. The match point, I don’t think I made one serve that wide in the whole match, to be honest. I was, like, If I’m going to make it, this is going to be the time (smiling).
I literally drove my legs up to that ball toss like never before. Yeah, I landed it. Just disbelief, trying to take everything in, all the moment.
The atmosphere was absolutely incredible today. The amount of fans and spectators in the crowd, I was very surprised by the turnout, to be honest. But I was really loving just playing in front of crowd and fans again.
When in your life did you first dream or fantasize about winning a major title? How does the reality tonight compare with those visions?
Yeah, the visions I had, they were from pretty early on, I would say. I’ve always dreamed of winning a Grand Slam. You just say these things. You say, I want to win a Grand Slam. But to have the belief I did, and actually executing, winning a Grand Slam, I can’t believe it.
I first started when I was a little girl, but I think the biggest thing that you have visions of is, for me it was just winning, the winning moment, and going to celebrate with your team in the box, trying to find your way up to the box, just seeing them after the match. That’s been playing in my head, like, a couple nights. Like I’ve fallen asleep to that (smiling).
Many people look at what happened at Wimbledon and see a lot of strength and inspiration in that, that you came through that situation and then come back and play so well in this big tournament, handle the pressure so well. How do you view that? Do you view it as a triumph in that sense?
I think the biggest triumph for me is how I managed to just not think of absolutely anything else except for my game plan, what I’m going to execute. I didn’t really think anything other than what was going on on the tennis court. All the outside stuff, I just completely zoned in and focused on my craft.
When I was on the tennis court, it was just business as usual, focusing on the plays. That’s the biggest thing that I’m proud of. I think that’s definitely the biggest thing that’s probably helped me to win this title.
How has your family reacted to this dream run? What has been the communication before the match and after the match?
Yeah, I speak to my parents. We don’t really talk so much about tennis. They just really want to know how I am in these moments.
To not have them here with me, I would have loved them to be here, and we can all celebrate together where they could be with me and experience the same things. But they’re watching from home very proud.
Yeah, I think my dad in no way, he said to me, You’re even better than your dad thought, so that was reassurance (laughter). Tiny temper reference there. My dad is definitely very tough to please. But I managed to today (smiling).
Three months ago you said you were a schoolgirl, now you’re the US Open champion. You’ve had a congratulatory message from the Queen. You said you weren’t looking at your phone, you didn’t really know what was going on back here. Are you ready for what a star you’re going to be when you come back and how things are going to change for you?
No, I still haven’t checked my phone. I have absolutely no idea what’s going on outside of the little world that we’re in here. We’ve just been in the quiet room, just enjoying the moment, taking it all in.
I think today we just really need to just shut out from everything, just enjoy it as a team, because it was a team effort. I didn’t get here by myself at all. Every single person that’s here with me has helped me along the way and played a huge part.
Have you already wrapped your head around how your life is going to change after this tournament? What do you think that’s going to be like?
I haven’t thought of any of that, to be honest. After the match, I just showered, same routines as always. I’m not even thinking about, like, when I’m going home. I have no idea when I’m going home. I have no idea what I’m doing tomorrow. I’m just really trying to embrace the moment, really take it all in.
I definitely think it’s the time to just switch off from any future thoughts or any plans, any schedule. I’ve got absolutely no clue. Right now, no care in the world, I’m just loving life (smiling).
You are the first British player to achieve a Grand Slam since Virginia Wade in 1977. What does making history at such a young age mean to you? How does it affect you? Does it create any extra pressure?
Yeah, I think that in the UK, Great Britain, Virginia Wade, she achieved such great results. She’s an absolute legend. She was watching my match. I was super honored.
For me I don’t feel absolutely any pressure. I’m still only 18 years old. I’m just having a free swing as anything that comes my way. 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.