British teenager Emma Raducanu says her stunning run to the US Open quarter-finals is “surreal”, but feels confident and “in control” as she chases a place in the semi-finals.
Raducanu faces Swiss 11th seed Belinda Bencic, who won the Olympic title last month, in the last eight on Wednesday.
“I didn’t expect to be here at all,” said the 18-year-old.
“I feel very confident in my game and in each match I am growing and learning new things.”
The pair will meet on Arthur Ashe Stadium at 17:00 BST. Commentary of the match will be broadcast on BBC Radio 5 Live.
‘It is right to be excited about wise and fearless Raducanu’
After bursting on to the professional scene with a run to the last 16 at Wimbledon, Raducanu has surpassed that achievement in New York in the most astonishing style.
The Kent teenager has not dropped a set at Flushing Meadows, losing just 15 games and overwhelming a series of more experienced opponents.
It is her first overseas Grand Slam and the first major for which she came through qualifying, having received a wildcard to play at the All England Club.
“The best thing I’m doing is taking each day and not getting ahead of myself at all, looking after what I can control, and I think that is working very well,” Raducanu said.
How Raducanu has created history in New York
Raducanu is the youngest British player to reach the quarter-finals of the US Open for more than 60 years.
The Kent teenager is the first woman since Jennifer Capriati in 1990 to reach at least the fourth round of her first two Grand Slam tournaments.
Raducanu is only the third qualifier to reach the quarter-finals in New York.
Her 15 games dropped is the lowest total by any player in the first four rounds since Serena Williams in 2013.
Raducanu was ranked 361st in mid-June, having not played competitively in the previous 15 months as the coronavirus pandemic wiped out the development tours underneath the main WTA Tour.
Fresh from taking her A-level exams – an A* in maths and an A in economics – she arrived at Wimbledon having played just one senior tour-level match.
Now the teenager is set to rise well into the world’s top 100 and could even move into the top 50 and become the British women’s number one – overhauling Johanna Konta and Heather Watson – if she beats Bencic.
“Bencic has a lot of experience on the tour. She’s in great form, having won Olympic gold,” said Raducanu, who is currently ranked 150th.
“I’m also feeling good about my game, also confident with the amount of matches I’ve played. I feel like I’m building with each one.
“It will be an extremely difficult match. I know if I’m going to have a chance, I’m going to have to play some really good tennis.”
‘She is almost like the finished product’ – Navratilova & Wade impressed
Both Raducanu’s technical execution and her ability to cope with increased scrutiny have drawn plaudits from many of the game’s greats, including 18-time Grand Slam singles champion Martina Navratilova and Virginia Wade – the last British woman to win a major title.
Both women agree Raducanu has the talent to win Grand Slam titles in the future – if she stays clear of injury – although they are cautious about tipping her to open her account this Saturday at Flushing Meadows.
“Her shot selection has been 99.9% perfect – she has a really high tennis IQ and mental IQ,” Navratilova told BBC Sport.
“She is almost like a finished product when she is just getting started.”
On who will win the title, she added: “There are still some big hitters out there. She can win. Will she? Probably not.
“She’s one of eight but I think she has less than a one-in-eight chance because I think the other players are better than she is at their best.”Wade, who won the US Open in 1968, Australian Open in 1972 and Wimbledon in 1977, says Raducanu has all the qualities needed to be successful over the coming years.
Wade watched Raducanu’s match against Shelby Rogers on Arthur Ashe Stadium, with the younger Briton addressing the 76-year-old and calling her an “inspiration” during the post-match victory interview.
“Emma is exciting, she is exuberant and she is a lovely person – all of that adds to the overall complexion, which is wonderful,” Wade told BBC Sport.
“Her serve is extremely good, she moves so well, her groundstrokes are great. I’ve not seen a box she hasn’t ticked.”Bencic impressed by Raducanu but hoping experience helps her
Bencic, 24, was also a teenage prodigy who reached the world’s top 100 as a 17-year-old and exploded on to the Grand Slam scene at the same age by reaching the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows in 2014.
On Raducanu, Bencic said: “She’s up and coming and an amazing talent. I didn’t see much yet how she played, but what I saw is definitely she’s very athletic, she’s moving great, and, I mean, she has great results.”
Having been coached by Martina Hingis’ mother, Bencic was often compared to five-time Grand Slam champion Hingis – who also trained and mentored her younger compatriot.
In 2016, when she was still 18, Bencic climbed to seventh in the world rankings but then had back and wrist injuries.
After a patient recovery, the Swiss right-hander reached the US Open semi-finals two years ago – where she lost to eventual champion Bianca Andreescu – and landed one of the sport’s biggest prizes with victory in Tokyo last month.
These successful experiences are proving beneficial this fortnight in New York, says Bencic.
“I feel like from all of these situations you can always learn something. Now I definitely learn how it is to be in the second week, how to manage these quarter-finals, semi-finals matches,” she said.
“I also feel the Olympics helped me a lot in this. I played big matches there, as well, and I know now how it feels to go deep in a tournament and an important tournament.”