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Qualifier Emma Raducanu advances to U.S. Open semifinals

Sportsnaut
Sep 8, 2021; Flushing, NY, USA; Emma Raducanu of Great Britain celebrates after match point against Belinda Bencic of Switzerland (not pictured) on day ten of the 2021 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 8, 2021; Flushing, NY, USA; Emma Raducanu of Great Britain celebrates after match point against Belinda Bencic of Switzerland (not pictured) on day ten of the 2021 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

British teen Emma Raducanu became the first qualifier in the Open Era to reach the semifinals of the U.S. Open with her 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 11 seed Belinda Bencic on Wednesday in New York.

The 18-year-old, ranked No. 150 in the world, also reached the Round of 16 at Wimbledon this summer after receiving a wild-card entry.

In the semis, she will face 17th-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece, who beat fourth-seeded Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-4.

Raducanu became the second teenager to advance to the Thursday semifinals. Leylah Fernandez, 19, of Canada will meet No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus in the other semifinal.

“To have so many young players here doing so well just shows how strong the next generation is,” Raducanu said. “Everyone is on their trajectory. I’m just here taking care of what I can control, and it’s my own journey at the end of the day.”

In fact, her match Wednesday against Bencic, who won the singles title last month at the Tokyo Olympics, was her first ever against any player ranked inside the top 40. Bencic, of Switzerland, is ranked No. 12.

But it took Raducanu just 82 minutes to eliminate Bencic, who jumped to a 3-1 lead in the first set. A double fault and errors by Bencic, however, allowed Raducanu to break her opponent’s serve to move the match to 3-3, and the Brit rolled off five straight games to close the first set.

On the day, Bencic had five double faults and lost serve three times but could capitalize on only one of five break opportunities. Raducanu was the sharper player on the day, converting 23 winners against 12 unforced errors, while Bencic had 21 unforced errors to 19 winners.

The win put Raducanu in elite company. She is the third woman with a ranking outside the top 100 to reach the semifinals round in New York, joining Billie Jean King (1979) and Kim Clijsters (2009). Both women were unranked at the time, and Clijsters wound up winning the championship.

“I didn’t expect to be here at all,” Raducanu said. “I think my flights were booked at the end of qualifying, so it’s a nice problem to have.”

Raducanu will face off for the first time with Sakkari, who got the lone service break in both sets against Pliskova. Sakkari never faced a break point, winning 92 percent of her first-serve points and 83 percent of her service points overall.

Sakkari, 26, already has matched the best Grand Slam result of her career. Her only other Grand Slam semifinal appearance came at the French Open this summer, where she lost to eventual champion Barbora Krejcikova 7-5, 4-6, 9-7.

–Field Level Media