Britain’s Emma Raducanu demolished Sara Sorribes Tormo in just 70 minutes at the US Open on Thursday, setting up an expected match with Ash Barty, but this was not to be as the World No 1 was toppled in a third set tiebreak by American Shelby Rogers in a late night shock result.
I’ve got a great team around me, a great team here so we’re just sticking to the same routines,” she said with a wide grin. “It’s been two weeks in New York now and into the third week. I never thought I’d be here but I’m just so, so excited. Emma Raducanu
Raducanu played on a sunny Court 17, packed with fans, who have taken to the 18-year old in New York, and she delivered a performance worthy of Broadway as she simply crushed the Spaniard, 6-0 6-1.
It was very nearly a double New York bagel but Sorribes Tormo avoided the embarrassment by snagging the penultimate game of the extraordinary match.
“I was playing very well and I know Sara’s an extremely tough opponent,” Raducanu told Amazon Prime. “She doesn’t make a mistake so you have to be on your game every single point.
“I had to work so hard and there were some really, really long deuce games that could have gone either way so I’m just really happy that I managed to maintain and stay on it, and win in the end.”
Raducanu in now in her second round of 16, as she was at Wimbledon, and, remarkably, this is just her second Grand Slam appearance.
Sorribes Tormo, ranked 41, who has a reputation as one of the toughest players on tour, came into the match with a 30-15 win-loss season record, including wins over Barty, Elena Rybakina and Ons Jabeur, could not match Raducanu’s power and consistency and was blown away.
“She’s been in great form,” Raducanu said. “She’s such a tricky opponent to play.
“I went out there with nothing to lose, and just knew that if I was going to win or have a shot of winning, that I was going to have to dominate and hit the corners as many times as possible, and not miss.
“If you trade against her, you come second best, and I took the game to her, and I hit more winners than errors.”
The teenager blitzed 23 winners and landed 72% of her first serves, but it was her patience and ability to pull the trigger at the right time that impressed as she mixed up her patterns and won the key points.
Sometimes, she went for a first strike, producing a stunning return or a one-two punch, while at other times, she rallied with the Spaniard, untroubled by her opponent’s array of spins, until she found the space into which she could inject winning pace.
She also won 10 out of 12 points at the net, thanks to judicious timing on her approaches.
The tone was set from the get-go, as Raducanu’s weight of shot caused angst to Sorribes Tormo, who likes to do damage with her spin, but could not lay any meaningful blows on the Brit.
After breaking serve in a lengthy 2nd game, the teenager steamrollered her way through to the last 16.
The 18-year old from Bromley is unfazed by the attention she is receiving. In fact, she seems to be relishing it.
“I’ve got a great team around me, a great team here so we’re just sticking to the same routines,” she said with a wide grin. “It’s been two weeks in New York now and into the third week.
“I never thought I’d be here but I’m just so, so excited.”
The Kent teenager has not dropped a set across 6 matches in qualifying and the main draw, and proved herself superior in every area, out-hitting and out-thinking one of the most durable players on tour.
Sorribes Tormo did hold serve for 5-1, to cheers from the crowd, after fighting off a match point when Raducanu showed a slight sign of nerves and missed her chance to complete a double bagel, but the Spaniard could not delay the inevitable and the Brit regained her composure to serve out a one-sided victory on her 2nd match point.
After her joyous leap, she set about inter-acting with her many fans court-side, happily posing for selfies and signing autographs.
“There is definitely a lot more going on in New York than like at Wimbledon, for example,” Raducanu added. “Like everything is just dead silent at Wimbledon.
“Their support helps me so much. I really enjoy playing, and I think that when I’m playing my best is when I’m having fun and smiling, that’s when the best tennis comes out.”
Ranked outside the top 350 in June, and having never faced a top-100 player, Raducanu was probably expecting to get a crack at top seed Barty but, as so often happens in tennis, the unexpected occurred as the World No 1 was sent packing out of the tournament by Rogers, who was also bolstered by a supportive crowd on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“I don’t really want to make any assumptions as to who is going to win, but, I’m ready to play whoever,” Raducanu reflected.
She is the third 18-year-old to make their mark in the first week of the US Open after Carlos Alvaraz handed No 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas a shocking third-round defeat on Friday and, later that evening, Canada’s Leylah Annie Fernandez ousted the defending champion Naomi Osaka in front of a packed Ashe crowd.
“To have so many young players coming through is just really great for the game, because it just shows how strong this next generation is,” Raducanu said. “I wanted to join them in the second week as well, so that was an extra bit of motivation.”
In the night session, Rogers staged a remarkable comeback to shock Barty, 6-2 1-6 7-6(5), recovering from 2-5 down in the decider to push the affair into a tiebreak, and securing the biggest upset of the tournament in front of an electric New York crowd inside Ashe Stadium.
“I am stunned. My heart rate is still very much elevated. I’m very excited with that win,” Rogers said, after defeating Barty for the first time in 6 meetings. “Going on the court I told myself I didn’t want to lose the same way I lost the last five times against her.
“I just tried to do things a little bit differently.”
That Barty blew her chances in the fierce 3rd-round battle that lasted 2 hours 9 minutes is clear, letting a comfortable lead slip and succumbing to the perils of a final set tiebreak.
There were also early signs of trouble for the Wimbledon champion, who handed Rogers a break with 4 double-faults in the 3rd game, and she got fewer than half of her first serves in as she committed 17 unforced errors during the first set.
“I played a pretty awful first set in the sense where I was erratic,” Barty admitted at her press conference after the match. “I couldn’t quite find the rhythm of how I wanted to play.
“I found a way back into the match, found a way to turn the match back in my favour, have a couple of opportunities to serve it out and be within a couple of points, disappointing not to get it done.”
She did find her form in the second, getting the crucial break in the 4th game with a forehand winner and converting again in the 6th when Rogers sent the ball into the net.
Barty was leading 5-2 in the decider when she suddenly found herself being broken, not just once, but twice, as Rogers reeled off 4 consecutive games, taking the lead 6-5 for the first time since the first set.
Even as the tiebreak began, it could have been anybody’s game, with Barty’s serve stunning Rogers, but the American unsettled her with her power and speed as she snatched the match by 7 points to 5.
“I think when matches get close, and typically towards the end of a third set, I mean, there are so many big moments within little moments,” Barty observed. “I mean, every point felt like there was a lot riding on it towards the end there.
“That’s natural. That’s normal for when a match gets so tight towards the end. You know that the finish line for both of you is kind of just there.” Barty added.
An astonished Rogers held her hands to her face as she clinched the match, her mouth agape with surprise, the crowding rising to its feet.
“I was just trying to stay in the point longer than Ash,” said Rogers, the only American woman left in the tournament of the 21 that set out on this journey. “She was handling my pace really well tonight.
“I felt like the harder I hit the ball, the better she hit.”
Barty appeared to take the loss in stride, telling reporters later: “I’ll sleep well tonight knowing I gave everything I could.
“I just didn’t quite have enough physically or mentally in the tank, but that’s OK. We’ve had a great year so far.”
She added that it wouldn’t take long to move on with her stellar season in which she has won 5 titles, including Wimbledon, Miami and Cincinnati, after taking an 11-month break from the tour last year when the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe.
She also told reporters that she planned to compete at Indian Wells next month, despite having been on the road for more than 5 months.
“You can’t win every single tennis match that you play,” she said. “I’m proud of myself and my team for all the efforts we’ve put in in the last six months.
“It’s been pretty incredible. I don’t think we could have asked for much more honestly. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
In her on-court interview, Rogers wiped away tears and thanked the New York crowd for supporting her throughout the match.
“Can’t get any worse. You’ve lost to her every time,” Rogers said. “Try something different.”
Rogers, during her press conference, sang Barty’s praise, saying she is a great representative of women’s tennis.
“A lot of people are taking it for granted,” Rogers said. “She hasn’t been able to go home since February, you guys. That’s insane
“She’s resetting on the road. She’s worked through some injuries on the road. She’s won five titles. She’s remained No 1.
“I mean, this girl is everything every player wants to be.”