(September 8, 2021) FLUSHING MEADOWS, New York – In just her second major championship main draw, Qualifier Emma Raducanu became the second teenager to reach the US Open semifinals, knocking off sixth seed and Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic 6-3, 6-4.
Raducanu, ranked 150th in the world joins Billie Jean King in 1979 and Kim Clijsters in 2009 as the only women outside of the top 100 to reach the US Open semifinals.
The 18-year-old qualifier from Britain joined 19-year-old Canadian Leylah Fernandez in the final four.
Raducanu rallied from 3-1 down in the first set.
“It took me some adjusting at the beginning to get used to her ball speed, yeah, how aggressive she was,” noted the British teen. “Once I adjusted, I settled in. I didn’t overpress as much.
“Yeah, I found a way to win, but it was very difficult to play against someone at such a high level.”
Raducanu will play 17th-seeded Maria Sakkari in the semifinals. The Greek beat fourth seed and former finalist Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 6-4 to make her first Flushing Meadows final for for her second major semifinal.
The 26-year-old Spartan never faced a break point of her serve . In the first set she only yielded only two points on her serve at one point winning 20 straight points on her serve. She hit 23 winners to only 12 unforced errors.
“To have so many young players here doing so well — it just shows how strong the next generation is,” said Raducanu.
“Everyone’s on their trajectory. It’s my own journey at the end of the day.”
“I have known Leylah since we were juniors, in Under-12s, we played Orange Bowl and all of those tournaments. I played her in Junior Wimbledon, actually.
“Yeah, the fact that we are both here in the semifinals of the US Open after having played each other from the early days, it’s very cool to see just how far we have come.
“Yeah, she’s a really cool person, and, yeah, was handing out cupcakes yesterday.”
Bencic, who was asked about all of the teens doing well this US Open said: “I honestly think it’s great. It’s great for tennis. It’s obviously great stories. I just really hope that everyone will protect them and will hope the best for them and not try to, you know, kind of not destroy but, you know, put so much pressure and so much hype around them so it just gets too much.
“I just hope everyone will stay and will really hope the best for them so they can just develop and kind of in peace also a little bit.”
The other women’s semifinal which will take place on Thursday will be No. 73 Fernandez against No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka.
Novak Djokovic stand just two wins away from winning the Grand Slam and his 21st major title when he dismantled Matteo Berrettini 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 on Wednesday night.
“Best three sets I’ve played – second, third and fourth – in the tournament so far,” Djokovic said. “I think I managed to raise the level of my tennis. When I dropped the first set, I just went to a different level and I stayed there till the last point. That’s something that definitely encourages me and gives me a lot of confidence prior to semifinals.
“Was a great battle. Always is with Matteo. He’s very powerful player. He’s got one of the best 1-2 punch in the game. Forehand from any position really. Serve, one of the biggest serves we have in tennis. Just difficult player to player against. He likes the big stage. He brings a lot of energy, a lot of intensity on the court. Was a great battle.
“I feel like my game, I stepped it up, and my game has improved definitely during the last couple matches. It’s going in the right direction so far.”
Another Olympic gold medalist played but had a winning result. Germany’s Alexander Zverev is back in the semifinals. The 2020 finalist ended the hopes of South Africa’s Lloyd Harris 7-6(6), 6-3, 6-4. Zverev was down a break in the first set and saved a set point in the tiebreak. Zverev broke Harris’ serve early in the next two sets by jumping out to leads of 3-0 in the second set and 4-0 in the third.
Zverev is currently on a 16-match winning streak.
“Happy to be in the semis,” said Zverev. “I think the match was a little bit strange. I think the first set he played very well, didn’t give me a lot of chance on his serve. Yeah, I mean, after that I started to play much better.
“I think the turning point was the first set, I think that I won it, and it did kind of go my way after that.”
The fourth seed will take on No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
On potentially playing Djokovic next, the German said:
“Against him you prepare that you have to play the best match that you can. You have to be perfect, otherwise you will not win.
“Yeah, I mean, most of the time you can’t be perfect. That’s why most of the time people lose to him. Against him, you have to win the match yourself. You have to be the one that is dominating the points. You have to do it with very little unforced errors.
“He is the best player in the world. He is very difficult to beat. But he’s still also got to win tonight. He’s playing Matteo Berrettini who is in very good form, finals of Wimbledon. I think he’s looking forward to that match, as well. It’s going to be an interesting match to watch those two.”
Zverev beat the Serbian in the semifinals of the Olympic games in July and said that the Olympics has given him confidence.
“Winning there against the world No. 1, especially that I was down a set and a break, being kind of out of the match, then coming back, it was different than the other matches. The emotions were different.
“Also securing a medal for Germany was very special to me. This year it seems like nobody can beat him in a big match, nobody can beat him at the Grand Slams. I feel like I was the first player to beat him in a very big match this year.”
Djokovic on facing Zverev:
“Look, the Olympic Games have been tough ending for me emotionally. But I did dominate the tournament to semifinals. I was 6-1, 3-2 against Zverev, who was also playing very well. Just I played great, great tennis. Then unfortunately game fell apart. It happens.
“I just started to doubt my shots a bit. He started to read my serve well. He has a tremendous serve. He got a lot of free points on his service games. Next thing you know he won it. He won it comfortably in the end. Deserved to win a gold medal obviously with the way he was playing. He hasn’t lost a match since.
“He’s in a fantastic form. Next to Medvedev, best form. But it’s best-of-five. It’s Grand Slam. Of course looking at his results in past few years, he’s played very well here on this court. He was a couple points away from his first slam last year against Dominic.
“I know it’s going to be battle, even harder than it was today. But I’m ready for it. Look, these are the hurdles that I need to overcome in order to get to the desired destination. Result is something that I can’t predict, but I can definitely put myself in the best possible state of mind and body to perform as well as I can.
“I know his game. As I said, I know his game very well. I’ve seen him play. He’s been playing very, very well. Again, semis. When we face each other, there’s nerves, a lot of things on the line. It could go both ways. I think very few points will really determine the winner there. Let’s see what happens.”
“Not an easy one to swallow,” said Harris. “I mean, was a little bit of a roller coaster match. I had my opportunities. Didn’t exactly go my way.
“Yeah, the level wasn’t quite where it needed to be. A little disappointing in that regard. Nonetheless, still a lot of positives to take from the week.”
On the way to his first major quarterfinal, Harris took down three seeds – No. 7 Denis Shapovalov, No. 22 Reilly Opelka and No. 25 Karen Khachanov.
Harris will stick around New York City, as he’ll play Davis Cup for South Africa, in a tie against Venezuela being hosted at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills , Queens.