NEW YORK – Emma Raducanu quickly seems to have figured out this Grand Slam thing. The 18-year-old who was born in Canada and represents Britain is into the third round at the U.S. Open after getting to Week 2 of Wimbledon in her major debut at age 18.
Ranked 338th when she got to the All England Club, Raducanu has parlayed her attention-grabbing run there and her five consecutive victories over the past 1 1/2 weeks at Flushing Meadows — including qualifying — into a surge toward the top 100.
“Wimbledon, it just taught me how physical I had to be for every single match and at the end it was my physicality that let me down,” said Raducanu, who retired from her fourth-round match at the grass-court major because of trouble breathing. “But that’s playing my first tournament on the tour at such a high level. So now, having played maybe four or five weeks, I'm still extremely fresh and new to the whole situation, but given the matches that I've played, I'm able to keep up a lot more physically. That’s definitely the biggest standout thing in my game that is going to take me far or is going to limit me.”
On Thursday, she beat Zhang Shuai 6-2, 6-4 in the second round, thanks in part to accumulating 27 winners and only 11 unforced errors. Raducanu also earned 11 break points and converted four, while facing just one herself.
It was a sign of her growing game, because this victory came exactly a month after she lost 6-3, 6-2 to Zhang at a tournament in California.
“Being on tour week-in, week-out and playing so many matches definitely helps in understanding what it takes to just repeat the level,” said Raducanu, who next meets Sara Sorribes Tormo.
Raducanu has won all 10 sets she’s played in New York, with three wins in qualifying and two in the main draw.
After being featured on No. 1 Court at Wimbledon as a home favorite, Raducanu has found herself out of the spotlight at the U.S. Open. On Thursday, she played on Court 10, with its 1,104 seats — a far cry from the 23,000-plus at Arthur Ashe Stadium or 14,000-plus at Louis Armstrong Stadium.
Not that the site matters to her.
“We’ll see what courts I get put on here, but I'm ready to play on anything,” Raducanu said with a laugh. “Even the park at the back!”
WHAT DID YOU ASK?
As one would imagine, 7-foot tennis pro Reilly Opelka hears a lot of not-as-witty-as-they-think quips and questions from folks about his height.
So the American, who is seeded 22nd at the U.S. Open and moved into the third round with a 31-ace victory Thursday, enjoys coming up with new ways to respond.
“You get used to some comments people make all the time or just some stupid little comments. People ask me all the time how tall I am. Quite frankly, it happens 10 times a day. You would think people would understand: ‘Oh, he probably gets asked that all the time; I’m not going to be that guy,’” Opelka said after defeating Lorenzo Musetti of Italy 7-6 (1), 7-5, 6-4.
“For the most part, I’m pretty nice when I answer. Sometimes,” he added with a smile, “I’m not so nice. Just depends on my mood.”
His latest bit is a play on the differences between those familiar with the metric vs. imperial measurement systems.
“When I’m in the States, I’ll put on a French accent,” Opelka explained, and then put on his best Parisian voice to demonstrate while saying, “Oh, 211 centimeters.”
“And then they don’t know what that is. That just makes me feel good,” he said. “When I’m in France: ‘Yeah, I’m 7 foot.’ They don’t know what it is. That’s kind of been my new one.”
Opelka, who turned 24 last weekend, will try to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time when he faces Nikoloz Basilashvili on Saturday.
FRANKLY, IGA, I DON'T GIVE A ...
Iga Swiatek, last year’s French Open champion, offered an unusual explanation for the ups and downs she experienced during a three-set victory in the U.S. Open’s second round: She finished “Gone With the Wind.”
The No. 7 seed said Thursday after beating Fiona Ferro 3-6, 7-6 (3), 6-0 that after three weeks of reading the 1936 novel by Margaret Mitchell — translated from English into her native tongue of Polish — she finally got to the last page a day earlier.
“And I cried,” Swiatek said. “Maybe that’s the reason I was emotional in the match.
Now she needs a bit of a break before figuring out what’s next on her reading list.
“I mean, I love it. This book has everything it needs. I don’t know if, like, historically it’s accurate, actually, because I haven’t checked that, but it was easy for me to just go to a different world and just (enjoy), I don’t know, the experience," Swiatek said. "Suddenly feeling like I’m in the 19th century.”
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