Raducanu is into the semi-finals of the US Open! Raducanu, at the end of a long opening rally, dumps a forehand into the net for 0-15. A double fault, her second of the match, and it’s swiftly 0-30. Bencic, however, has another gift for Raducanu, hitting long for 15-30. Raducanu moves in on a short sliced ball by Bencic and easily puts away the winner for 30-30. A stunning serve out wide, which Bencic cannot reach, brings her first match point. A second serve … and she’s done it! She drops her racket, and smiles, and waves to the crowd as Bencic crosses to her side of the net for a hug. Absolutely phenomenal performance from Raducanu, who kept taking her shots on at the key moments, and she is into the last four of the US Open.
Raducanu* 6-3, 5-4 Bencic (*denotes next server). Raducanu, using her superb pace and movement around the court, defends determinedly and grinds out the first point of the game. She does the same again on the second point, but Bencic does well to win it with a clean winner. A mishit from Bencic next up, however, and it’s 15-30 … but she drags it back to 30-30 with a powerful, flat, deep serve out wide which Raducanu only just gets her racket on but can’t get back. Raducanu is all over the second serve, next up, but fires it into the net. Bencic aces for the game – Raducanu will serve for the match …
Raducanu 6-3, 5-3 Bencic* (*denotes next server). A deep return to start, from Bencic, and Raducanu can’t get it back. 0-15. A double fault from Raducanu, her first of the match, then brings up 0-30. Bencic, however, seems confused by a slower first serve by Raducanu and hits long. She hits long again for 30-30 and crashes her racket against the floor in frustration. Another good first serve from Raducanu and she’s 40-30 up – and then another – and it’s the game and the British player is a a single game away from a place in the last four.
Raducanu* 6-3, 4-3 Bencic (*denotes next server). Another double by Bencic brings up a break point – effectivey a match point – for Raducanu. A lovely volley at the net from Bencic saves the game point, then another excellent drop volley in the next point sets up game point for Bencic. She takes the game. The Swiss simply had to win that, and immense respect to her from digging it out.
Raducanu 6-3, 4-2 Bencic* (*denotes next server). Raducanu races to 40-0, but Bencic somehow manages to find a fine winner to the corner to make it 40-15. Bencic comes forward again – she has to at this stage – on the next point and Raducanu can only find the net for 40-30. Next up, attacking Raducanu’s second serve, Bencic goes for a big cross-court winner – it flicks the top of the net and bounces out and Raducanu leads 4-2! Wonderful stuff.
Raducanu* 6-3, 3-2 Bencic (*denotes next server). At 0-30 down, Bencic crafts another wonderful point to fight back to 15-30. But Raducanu then destroys a second serve with another clean winner to create two break points … and Bencic double faults! Raducanu is a set and a break up and is on course for the semi-final! Bencic is crumbling, it would seem, in the face of this onslaught from her young opponent.
Raducanu 6-3, 2-2 Bencic* (*denotes next server). A good, powerful first serve, first up from Raducanu. Bencic hits long on the next point for 0-30, but then produces a thunderous, angled forehand winner from the baseline to make it 15-30. She works the angles in the next point and wrong-foots Raducanu and sends a winner into the opposite corner to that of the previous point. Under a little pressure at 30-30, Raducanu sends a serve out wide, and it just touches the line for 40-30. Raducanu closes out the game and we are all square in the second. Again, Raducanu showing no hesitation to take the attacking option when lesser players would fade.
Raducanu* 6-3, 1-2 Bencic (*denotes next server). Bencic begins to find her range with her first serve, and she holds to love. Bencic has just 54% of first serves in, although that has improved markedly since the first set. Raducanu has 61% of first serves in. Raducanu, meanwhile, has hit 16 clean winners to Bencic’s nine.
Raducanu 6-3, 1-1 Bencic* (*denotes next server). Bencic forces her way to 15-40 on Raducanu’s serve. At 30-40, though, Raducanu hits a couple of expansive, confident forehands, working the angles brilliantly again, and brings it back to deuce. Bencic doesn’t mess about with another second serve, though, and crunches a double-handed backhand winner to force another break point. Raducanu fires back immediately with a strong first serve that Bencic puts into the net. Raducanu closes out the game, however. That was very, very cool and calm from Raducanu to bring it back from 15-40 – instead of tightening up under pressure, she kept taking her shots on and is rewarded with an early hold in the second set.
Raducanu* 6-3, 0-1 Bencic (*denotes next server). At 15-15, Bencic double-faults. Raducanu climbs into her second serve at 15-30, and forces her way into the ascendancy in the following rally. She opens up the court efficiently, but chooses to hit back down the line where Bencic is waiting, and the Swiss passes her for parity in the first game of the second game. That was arguably a mistake from Raducanu and Bencic closes out the game. Still, the young British player is creating opportunities and has continues the late first-set trend of putting her opponent’s serve under plenty of pressure. A big hold for Bencic nonetheless.
Thankfully it was a speedy break from Bencic, rather than a Tsitsipas-style epic, and we are under way for the second set with Bencic serving first.
Bencic has left the court. Tim Henman speaks about Raducanu’s comeback win in that set: “It’s her resilience, her maturity, she doesn’t panic … Bencic didn’t give her anything [early in the set], but it was a big game to hold at 2-1 … Raducanu has certainly rocked the boat.”
Simply stunning. Raducanu was on the back foot, in a big way, in that set in the face of some determined, accurate hitting from her opponent. But she settled herself down and was the superior player by the end of the set, fighting back from 3-1 down to take it 6-3.
“I’ve got sweaters that are older than Emma,” observes Mark Petchey on commentary, as a means of illustrating how remarkably well she is playing for an 18-year-old.
Raducanu* 5-3 Bencic* (*denotes next server). This is the Raducanu that has burst on to the scene this summer! Another break! She dictates the first rally of the game and smacks a lovely winner down the line for 0-15. Bencic, however, is having none of it and hits straight back with a powerful, deep double-handed backhand that Raducanu has no hope of getting back. At 15-15 Bencic sends another one deep into the court that Raducanu can only dump into the net in response. When it looks like Bencic has grappled the momentum back, however, her opponent roars back into the contest and fashions another break point … Bencic gets it back to deuce, and then by far the best rally of the match ends with a clean Raducanu winner down the line. Brilliant. She gets a stroke of luck with a ball that flicks off the net on the next break point, but anyway, Raducanu wins it – and she is a game away from winning the first set of this quarter-final.
Raducanu 4-3 Bencic* (*denotes next server). A huge hold of serve for Raducanu. To start, she sends two shots long for 0-30 to Bencic: one an attempted lob, one a regulation shot from the baseline, and suddenly the British player is on the back foot again. She continues to struggle with her first serve, too, but fights back to 30-30, and then a sumptuous cross-court winner brings 40-30 after a slightly mishit return by Bencic. That brings a fist-pump and a ‘Come on!’ from Raducanu in the direction of her team. She crunches a big forehand to the corner, Bencic can only find the net in trying to get it back, and from 0-30 down, Raducanu leads in the first set, for the first time!
Raducanu* 3-3 Bencic (*denotes next server). Raducanu breaks back! An artful winner down the line, after a fine return deep into the corner, creates a glimmer of a chance at 0-15 for Raducanu. Bencic fires back for 15-15, but then hits fractionally long on the next point, and Raducanu has meaningful pressure on her opponent’s serve for the first time. Bencic coolly slams a winner out wide on her forehand for 30-30, before Raducanu gets on top in a baseline rally, her movement noticeably improving from early in the set, and forces an error and the break point. Raducanu’s eyes light up with a chance to hit a down-the-line winner to seal the game but she completely mishits it off the frame of her racket and it balloons up high over the court. Bencic, clearly feeling pressure for the first time, swiftly double faults to hand Raducanu another break point … and she gets it as Bencic find the net! We are all square.
Raducanu 2-3 Bencic* (*denotes next server). A strong hold of serve from Raducanu, who has visibly settled into this match. Bencic seemed to be distracted by some movement in the crowd during one point in that game, but it had no effect overall: Raducanu holds to love but she needs that break back …
Raducanu* 1-3 Bencic (*denotes next server). Raducanu’s plan is clearly to take it to Bencic and force her on to the back foot. She doesn’t want to let her opponent settle, but at the moment she’s missing too often when trying to work the angles and go for the corners. Bencic holds easily and opens up a two-game lead in the first set.
Raducanu 1-2 Bencic* (*denotes next server). A confident, clean cross-court winner from Raducanu helps to bring up 40-0. Raducanu chooses to attack the net on the next point, and Bencic passes her down the line with dismissive ease. Another fine winner from Bencic makes it 40-30, but then a solid serve from Raducanu, and a mishit from the Swiss, and the British player is on the board at 2-1.
Raducanu* 0-2 Bencic (*denotes next server). Raducanu finds her way into a baseline rally at 0-15 on Bencic’s second serve, and crushes a wonderful forehand winner into the corner down the line. That looks the perfect opportunity to try and put pressure on her opponent’s serve, but Raducanu gives up another couple of cheap points and Bencic holds easily despite not managing to get a first serve in.
First set: Raducanu 0-1 Bencic* (*denotes next server). Bencic races to 0-40 in Raducanu’s first service game, through a combination of wayward hitting from Raducanu, and some aggressive returning and baseline hitting from Bencic. Raducanu saves one break point with an ace, but puts a forehand into the net in the next rally, and Bencic claims the early break. That’s a tremendous, positive start from Bencic and a slightly nervy one from Raducanu, which needless to say, is entirely understandable.
Here we go. Raducanu to serve first. The British player’s side of the court is in the shade, while Bencic’s is bathed in sunshine.
Tim Henman is at the side of the court for Amazon Prime and is asked about his memories of his debut grand slam quarter-final: “There’s nervous excitement that goes with it … you’ve got to embrace those nerves, think about your footwork early on … you’ve got to control the controllables … When we reflect on how well she’s playing and how well she is striking the ball … I’m quietly confident on the side of the court here.”
Two minutes until lift-off.
The players are out on the court. Raducanu comes out first and looks relaxed as she smiles and waves to the fans. There aren’t many people in Arthur Ashe Stadium right now but it will surely fill up.
As Tumaini pointed out in his preview, and as mentioned here by the US Open official Twitter, Raducanu has dropped just 15 games in four rounds. It’s remarkable form.
Andy Murray is asked what his advice for Raducanu would be: “A lot of people would say go out there and enjoy it … I think it’s quite difficult to do that … there is no question that Emma will feel pressure, she will feel nervous … it’s important that her team speak to her about that, and how she’s going to deal with that … losing a set, for instance, which she hasn’t done so far [at the tournament]. Those are the things I’d want to prepare my player for. The most important thing is to come off the court knowing you’ve given everything you’ve got … the one thing you can control is your effort levels and your mentality … her team will be hoping she goes and gives everything, and plays a top match.”
Martina Navratilova, on duty at Flushing Meadows, assesses Belinda Bencic’s form: “Bencic has looked great … her tennis has been fantastic … particularly in the last match against Iga Swiatek. She’s only lost her serve three times [at the tournament]. It’s her match to win or lose today … she’s the overwhelming favourite today, and sometimes that can be a bad thing.”
Andy Murray speaks to Amazon Prime about Raducanu’s progress to the last eight, and her chances today: “I think what she’s done so far in the tournament has been incredible … the ease with which she’s won her matches has been surprising for everyone … it’s an opportunity for her today, Bencic is playing extremely well just now and will have a lot of confidence off the back of the Olympics … her results this year up to the Olympics have not been that impressive … it’s a tough match because Bencic has confidence from the Olympics but she’s certainly beatable.”
“She [Raducanu] is very offensive on the return, she likes to step into the court … she’s often right up inside the baseline [on second serves] … Bencic’s serve is normally the weaker part of her game, especially on second serve … it’s finding that balance of being offensive … and you don’t need to hit it at 100mph all the time if you’re already inside the court.
“Mentally, Bencic and be a bit up and down in games, and get down on herself … there are a number of things but the psychological side is important.”
Having just turned 19, Leylah Fernandez would be the senior player in a match-up with Raducanu. The remarkably talented and charismatic Canadian showed all her determination and skill to defeat Elina Svitolina (5) yesterday and progress into the last four:
“Personally I am surprised that I’m here. I knew I was doing a lot of great work that would pay off someday, but you never know when. I’m super-appreciative of the moment.”
Tumaini Carayol reflects on Raducanu’s run to the last eight, and her prospects against Bencic today:
While it may feel like it right now, Raducanu v Bencic is not the only show in town at the US Open today: next on court will be the men’s singles fourth seed, Alexander Zverev, who meets Lloyd Harris of South Africa, the world No 46.
After that, at midnight UK time, Karolina Pliskova (4) takes on Maria Sakkari (17) in the second women’s singles quarter-final of the day, and then it’s the small matter of Novak Djokovic (1) against Matteo Berrettini (6), who meet again after the Serb triumphed at the Wimbledon final in July. That match is scheduled for 1.15am UK time.
Even Emma Raducanu admits she is surprised to find herself in the quarter-finals of the US Open. She is not the only one: astonishingly, this is only the fourth tour-level event she has participated in. But things are about to get real, and today at Flushing Meadows Raducanu will face a top-30 opponent for the first time: Belinda Bencic of Switzerland.
The 18-year-old Raducanu’s celebrity status is secure – her dramatic run to the last 16 at Wimbledon saw to that – but that celebrity has been borne out of prodigious talent, hard work and self-belief. Should Raducanu take another step towards grand slam glory and reach the last four of the US Open today, the hype machine is sure to be dialled up another notch.
Why shouldn’t Raducanu be in the semi-finals in a few hours’ time? If there one thing that she and Leylah Fernandez have shown us over the past several days, it’s that a liberal dash of self-belief, a willingness to attack and to take on aggressive shots can bring spectacular results: no matter the age or experience of the players on either side of the net. This promises to be a compelling encounter, no matter the result. Pre-match reading and more coming right up.
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