Emma Raducanu’s US Open inspires teenage girls

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This year’s US Open will be remembered as a denial and the birthplace of a new tennis story.

Serbian Novak Djokovic failed to break the men’s record for most Grand Slam titles won and remains tied at 20 with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

However, on the women’s side, 18-year-old Briton Emma Raducanu’s triumph in the final against 19-year-old Canadian Leylah Fernandez broke records. Her victory seemed to salute the rise of the new generation taking the world of women’s tennis by storm.

Emma and Leylah broke records together as the first unranked players to reach the US Open final and fourth-youngest finalist in history, with a combined age of 37 against the record-breaking 34.

Emma’s subsequent triumph at the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowned her the youngest female Grand Slam champion since 1997 and the first qualifier to win an Open Era Major tournament (i.e. she must have won three matches just to get into the main draw). Not bad for a player ranked No. 150 in the world.

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I first saw Emma play on her Grand Slam debut at Wimbledon in July, where she qualified for the fourth round but withdrew during her match due to breathing difficulties.

She was an underdog for this US Open two months later, but as I watched her throughout her journey to the final – not a single set fall – I dared to hope that she would defy all odds with a incredible return.

Day 13: Emma Raducanu celebrates with the Championship trophy after her match against Leylah Fernandez in the women's singles final.

I identified with Emma in a way I didn’t have with the other players, beyond the basics of being both a tennis player (although I had known for a long time that I couldn’t turn pro) and to have a Chinese heritage.

When I became the first singles player in my school this year, my shock and excitement mingled uncomfortably with the insecurity and anxiety of players with real coaching background.

A few hours before my first match, I vividly remember feeling like throwing up. Although Emma’s ordeal at Wimbledon was on a bigger scale than mine, I felt comforted as I thought of our common nerves and her promise to come back better.

Hatboro-Horsham junior Lily Wu, foreground, plays her first singles match against Quakertown on September 14, 2021.

I ended up losing my game that day, but I focused on the rebound as Emma was going a few hundred miles away in her qualifying rounds, and I came back better for my next game.

Emma Raducanu is also an unusual teenage tennis pro in another aspect: she completed her traditional high school education, even achieving high marks on her A-level exams before Wimbledon. She said keeping her tennis and her personal world separate, including having different circles of friends and maintaining hobbies, had been helpful for her career.

I can understand wanting that kind of balance, and it was inspiring to hear the same feelings from him.

Since I started high school in 2019, I have struggled to set myself arbitrarily high academic expectations and be on the verge of school burnout. Over the past year in particular, it has taken some time away from my tennis and other hobbies; ironic since such hobbies provided the breaks I needed most.

The lesson I had to learn the hard way, now reinforced by Emma’s story, is that fitness and mental fitness are complements, not zero-sum rivals.

I have no doubt that there will be more lessons to be learned from the new tennis star as she continues her journey in tennis. She has all the talent and the ability; The ball is in his court.

Lillian wu

Lily Wu is a student at Hatboro-Horsham High School in Pennsylvania. She is the editor of the student newspaper, is on the college girls’ tennis team, and runs a book club with friends. She loves Greek mythology.


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