First qualifying round 6-1, 6-2 v Bibiane Schoofs
Playing behind closed doors on an outside court at Flushing Meadows is quite a departure from Raducanu’s recent run to the last 16 at Wimbledon. The world No 283, Bibiane Schoofs, struggles to mount a significant challenge. Raducanu wins 81% of points on first serve while defending with determination and precision. Serving for the match at 6-1, 5-0, Schoofs breaks for the first time. Raducanu breaks straight back to move within two victories of the main draw.
Second qualifying round
6-3, 7-5 v Mariam Bolkvadze
That Wimbledon performance had elevated Raducanu to 150 in the women’s rankings: her Georgian opponent in the second qualifying round is ranked 17 places below. Raducanu breezes to victory in the first set, but the 23-year-old Bolkvadze fires back in the second, moving a break up on her 18-year‑old opponent. No panic from Raducanu as she hauls herself back into the lead. A superb cross-court forehand sets up three match points; Mayar Sherif awaits in the final qualifier.
Final qualifying round
6-1, 6-4 v Mayar Sherif
As the first Egyptian to have reached a WTA final, Sherif is also a player on the rise. But she has no answer to her opponent’s weapons, the double-handed backhand complemented by consistently deep hitting from Raducanu’s forehand. The world No 95 is the third player to fail to take a set from Raducanu, who says: “By playing these players week-in, week-out, you definitely improve.” That is becoming increasingly apparent; Raducanu has amassed 13 service breaks in three matches.
6-2, 6-3 v Stefanie Vögele
The story may have ended here had Raducanu’s scheduled opponent, Jennifer Brady, not withdrawn due to injury. The 13th seed and 2020 semi-finalist would certainly have provided a sterner test than “lucky loser” Stefanie Vögele. Raducanu is broken in the third game, but positive shot-making and supreme returning leads to winning 20 of 24 points for a 6-2 first-set success. Raducanu falters slightly in needing seven match points to finish. “I don’t see too many weaknesses,” says Eurosport’s Mats Wilander.
6-2, 6-4 v Zhang Shuai
Zhang Shuai had prevailed in straight sets in San Jose a month earlier, but Raducanu is a different proposition now. In the aftermath of the destructive Hurricane Ida, Raducanu raises her form and focus to another level, breaking her opponent in the opening game. Zhang cannot deal with Raducanu’s ability to dictate from the baseline and (a recurring theme) her punishing returns. The Chinese veteran causes damage with her forehand in the second set but Raducanu’s serene progress continues.
6-0, 6-1 v Sara Sorribes Tormo
“I don’t think I’m that interesting,” Raducanu said pre-tournament. The world’s media disagrees, particularly after this near-perfect victory that hints at an unthinkable tournament triumph from qualifying. The idea of Raducanu dropping a set, let alone losing a match, is increasingly far-fetched as she nearly inflicts a double bagel on the world No 41. It takes 11 minutes to break in the Spaniard’s first service game. Raducanu never looks back.
“A faultless exhibition of clean, relentless shotmaking,” writes Tumaini Carayol.
Last 16 6-2, 6-1 v Shelby Rogers
Raducanu’s understandable nervousness brings early errors. She finds herself 2-0 and 15-40 down against the big-hitting Shelby Rogers. But Raducanu saves two break points and swiftly imposes herself, taking 12 of 13 games, winning in just over an hour. It is 13 days and seven matches since her tournament began. She hasn’t dropped a set. “She is a superstar in the making,” says Martina Navratilova. “You saw it with Novak Djokovic … Martina Hingis as well. It’s there.”
Q-f 6-3, 6-4 v Belinda Bencic
Soon after winning gold in Tokyo, Belinda Bencic is also yet to lose a set and her power initially unsettles Raducanu. The Briton trails 3-1 in the first, but finds a couple of solid holds and eventually takes it 6-3. “It’s her resilience, her maturity. She doesn’t panic,” says Tim Henman on Amazon Prime. Raducanu’s ability to remain positive when under pressure emerges again: from 0-30 down in the final two games, she still manages to clinch another straight-sets win.
S-f 6-1, 6-4 v Maria Sakkari
Before Wimbledon, 11 weeks ago, Raducanu was ranked No 338. She is on the verge of becoming the first Open-era qualifier to reach a grand slam final. Maria Sakkari starts fast, forcing her opponent back. Raducanu saves seven break points to lead 3-0. Her deep returns trouble the big-serving Greek. Sakkari fights hard in the second set but is beaten with little fuss.
“What an incredible achievement,” tweet the Duke And Duchess of Cambridge. “We will all be rooting for you.”
Final 6-4, 6-3 v Leylah Fernandez
Like Raducanu, the 19-year-old Canadian Leylah Fernandez, ranked No 73, is a surprising presence in the final. The hitting is ferocious: Raducanu breaks early, Fernandez replies in kind. Raducanu needs four set points to seal the first and a big forehand gets it done. Maintaining the momentum despite bleeding from a graze on her knee, Raducanu errs on two match points, before sealing victory with a 108mph ace out wide. From rising star to grand slam champion in 10 matches.