British teenager Emma Raducanu said she was still coming to terms with her remarkable run at the US Open after another straight-set win, this time over Maria Sakkari, to reach her maiden final in just her second grand slam tournament.
Raducanu, 18, became the first qualifier to reach a grand slam final with the 6-1, 6-4 victory over the 17th seeded Greek, and is yet to drop a single set at this year’s tournament at Flushing Meadows.
She will now play fellow teenager Leylah Fernandez, the 19-year-old Canadian, in Saturday’s final when Raducanu can become the first British woman to win a grand slam since Virginia Wade in 1977.
When asked to describe her run to the championship match after only making her major debut earlier this year at Wimbledon, she said: “A surprise. Honestly I just can’t believe it. A shock. Crazy. All of the above.
“But it means a lot to be here in this situation. I wanted obviously to be playing grand slams, but I didn’t know how soon that would be. To be in a grand slam final at this stage of my career, I have no words.
“It means everything to me to be here in the main draw first of all, then in the final of the US Open. I always had dreams of playing in grand slams, but I just didn’t know when they would come. To come this early, at this point in my career, I’ve only really been on tour for a month, [and it has been] two months since Wimbledon. It’s pretty crazy to me.”
Raducanu, who first rose to prominence when she captured the public’s imagination on a run to the fourth round of Wimbledon in July, overcame seven break points in her first two service games against Sakkari, but broke three times to take a 5-0 lead in the first set.
The second was a little less straight forward as Sakkari fought off five break points in a lengthy seventh game, but Raducanu warded off the fightback and sealed victory in an hour and 24 minutes.
“Today was always going to be a very difficult match, to play against Maria Sakkari,” she said. “She’s an unbelievable player, probably one of the best athletes out there on tour. I knew before the match I was going to have to play some of my best tennis if I wanted a chance.
“Honestly I think I played some of my best tennis today, especially here in New York. I knew I was going to have to be super aggressive. I managed to execute. So, I’m just really happy with today’s performance.”
Sakkari said she was “sad” and “very broken” to have missed another opportunity to reach her first grand slam final, but was full of praise for her opponent.
“She plays fearless. She absolutely goes for it,” Sakkari said. “She does the right thing actually. She goes for it. She has nothing to lose. She’s enjoying herself.”
Fernandez, who Canada-born Raducanu has met on court previously – at the Wimbledon junior championships – awaits in a final that is guaranteed to end with a teenage champion.
“Obviously since then we’ve both come very far in our games and as people,” Raducanu said. “I’m sure it’s going to be extremely different to when we last encountered each other. But we’re both playing good tennis so it will be a good match.
“Honestly right now I’m just thinking of the game plan, how to execute. That’s what’s landed me in this situation. It hasn’t been focusing on who’s expected to win this match or that one.
“I think it’s just taking care of the day. That’s what I’m doing quite well at the moment.”