Written by Staff Writer
Emma Raducanu came from two sets down to beat Victoria Azarenka 7-6(5), 2-6, 6-1 to win the US Open Girls’ 16 title on Saturday.
The Croatian only played on one of her two previous visits to Flushing Meadows following a serious foot injury earlier this year.
The 18-year-old overcame a mid-match slump and saved three match points to become the first teenager to win the US Open title since 2012.
‘Head over heels in love’
“I just love everything about this tournament,” said Raducanu, who started with an injury to her right foot.
“The fact that I won for my sixth consecutive tournament and I also became the first person in my own family to win a Grand Slam and the first person on Croatia’s team to win a Grand Slam.
“It was a great moment in my life.”
The Czech Republic-born Raducanu celebrated her victory by pinching her face in disbelief after easily converting her second match point.
The Croatian went on to break Azarenka in the third game of the decider before also converting on her third set point to win the match in a little more than two hours.
One of the world’s best players, Australian Open champion Azarenka is a perennial contender in the women’s draw but lost her footing, reeling off a succession of double faults to hand Raducanu two breaks of serve in the third set.
“This wasn’t an easy match. I have played Victoria so many times,” Raducanu said.
“My first few games were maybe a little bit slower than what I wanted to give myself. I came into this match with a confidence I never had before but I believe in myself.”
Victory was another milestone for Raducanu, who won the Australian Open this year in addition to a surprise success at the US Girls’ 18 title.
After facing a two-set deficit for the first time in her career, Raducanu rallied, claiming the next two sets to claim a place in history.
Raducanu, from the town of Scharsol, in northwest Croatia, endured serious injury problems earlier this year with surgery on her foot being followed by rehabilitation.
She also suffered from fitness cramps in the final set in her debut appearance at the Open here last year.
Azarenka, who gave birth to a son in December, admitted she struggled to maintain a consistent level throughout the match, conceding that the cramp “set me back” but adding that she was pleased to be able to play at Flushing Meadows again.
“I have been very happy with my play lately. All the matches that I have played have been highly competitive matches and they’ve been closer matches,” said Azarenka, who claimed the semi-finals spot on Friday.
“I have felt a lot better about my game. The conditions are a lot more consistent and better when you play (at least) a few matches in them.”
On the extreme heat policy for the US Open, Azarenka added: “I am just really lucky to be here in the finals and I am very thankful for this opportunity and for a more comfortable match.”
Azarenka is poised to appear in a sixth Grand Slam final after winning the Australian Open, the 2008 French Open and the 2013 and 2014 US Opens.