Leylah Fernandez is still battling through the debris of her heartbreakingly slow amateur career at the age of 16. Emma Raducanu will look to complete a fabulous comeback from the seemingly impossible.
Fourteen years after an injury-hampered junior career that included just four tournaments as a 17-year-old, Raducanu returns to compete at the US Open next week for the first time since 2002. She’ll be competing with just one single-competition win in 20 years and having failed to finish higher than 11th since turning professional, she is as nervous as she can be in front of the home crowd.
But it is at Wimbledon last year where she raised her game. Without making the semi-finals, she dismantled Swiss wildcard Laura Siegemund and Francesca Schiavone from Italy in the last four to make the final.
American wildcard Emma Raducanu is one of the biggest stars of women’s tennis, and is playing the US Open in her home country for the first time since 2002. Image courtesy Carl Fox
Raducanu lost to eventual winner Eugenie Bouchard on a tie-break. The American will be back as a contender in New York this year, having had a year on the road, but is a wildcard in the women’s singles draw. Fernandez, who suffered only a light loss against Raducanu at the Fever-Tree Championships earlier this year, is determined to be the star attraction in New York City.
“First of all I’ve just been focusing on making the semi-finals here and I’ve been doing what I can, and not getting too much excited about it,” Raducanu said. “My goal would be to win this week, but it won’t be easy to do that, and I’ve just got to focus on myself first. Hopefully I’ll be able to get there by the end of the tournament, but there are still a lot of hard matches that lie ahead and I have to stay focused on that.”
Fernandez, who was forced to retire in her third junior singles final, believes her relationship with the supportive fans will be key.
“This year’s US Open is very special because I’m getting to play in my home country again, and play in front of my friends and family,” she said. “They always gave me support every time I was down. They can see that I’m getting my game back together and I’m happy that I’m playing again in front of them. And they’re the ones who give me the courage to get up and play.”
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