In the searing cauldron of the Arthur Ashe Stadium, the biggest tennis court on the planet, Emma Raducanu continued her astonishing three-week run from the crowdless US Open qualifying event towards the top tables of the sport by eviscerating yet another experienced top 50 opponent with a vital mixture of intelligence and consistency. In just 65 minutes, Raducanu defeated Shelby Rogers 6-2, 6-1 to reach her maiden grand slam quarter-final.
With her victory, Raducanu became just the third qualifier in the Open era to reach the US Open quarter-finals. Incredibly, after seven matches and three top 50 opponents, she has still not dropped any of her 14 sets. She arrived in the fourth round having dropped fewer games than any other player and she has shown no sign of stopping.
“Shelby is a great opponent, she has done so well in the US Open,” said an overjoyed Raducanu during her on-court interview as Virginia Wade, the 1968 champion, watched on. “I’m so happy to have come through and overcome some of the nerves at the beginning.
As in Raducanu’s 6-0, 6-1 beatdown of Sara Sorribes Tormo, this was, on paper, another complex contest against an even more experienced opponent. The American, who achieved a career high ranking of 40 in the summer, is enjoying the best tennis of her career. After the US Open quarter-final last year, she scuppered Ashleigh Barty, the world number one, in the previous round from a 2-5 and double break deficit in the third set.
Rogers is a heavy ballstriker with a precise serve but she is also adept at grinding through matches by the force of her willpower. She immediately demonstrated her far weightier ball to Raducanu’s previous opponents, cracking the ball off both wings in the opening stages. She broke down Raducanu’s forehand deuce rallies, eventually eliciting a forehand error to break serve in the opening game.
In those early stages, Raducanu’s nerves were clear as a further series of unforced errors led her to a 0-2, 15-40 deficit. Raducanu saved the two break points with two unreturned serves and she eventually held serve, demonstrating her court sense as she reined in her game, relying on her movement and hustle to win numerous prolonged points.
Errors began to flow from the American’s racquet as Raducanu rolled through three consecutive games, and Rogers was finally forced to rein in her power. As she did, Raducanu stepped forward slowly and began to impose herself in the exchanges, carefully moving Rogers around. Raducanu broke serve again for 4-2 and after starting the first set under pressure, Raducanu was a picture of freedom as she obliterated a forehand return winner to take the set.
As has been the case throughout this searing 14-set run, as soon as she established her rhythm and momentum, she ran with it almost until the end. The six consecutive games won by Raducanu from 0-2 in the first set quickly became nine.
By the middle of the second set, Rogers could not find the court. She double faulted on break point at 0-3 and an 11-point run for Raducanu was littered with Rogers’ unforced errors. As the games rolled on, Raducanu served seamlessly, limited her unforced errors and intelligently prodded Rogers around the court.
After a summer of winning and learning, Raducanu’s growing experience with every match was evident at the close as Rogers finally began to strike the ball well. She ended the run of games for Raducanu at 11, holding serve for 2-6, 1-5, and then she generated three break points on Raducanu’s serve. But at no point did Raducanu look like she would falter and she continued to hit through her forehand right until the end.
After starting the summer ranked 366th, Raducanu has already risen nearly 300 ranking spots. Having only just arrived on the scene, Raducanu is one win away from becoming British number one.
In the quarter-final, Raducanu will get her first ever shot at a top 30 opponent she faces Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic, the eleventh seed. Bencic continued her breakout summer form by beating Iga Swiatek, the seventh seed, 7-6(12) 6-3. The victory is her 13th victory in her last 14 singles matches since clinching singles gold and women’s doubles silver in Tokyo.
When the current teenage prodigy was asked in her on-court interview about the former teenage prodigy, as she basked in the glow of another stunning achievement, it was the last thing on Raducanu’s mind: “Belinda is a great player who’s in great form so I know I’m gonna have to bring it on Wednesday,” she said. “It’s just going to be be who can dictate and I’m not really thinking about tennis right now. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”