One past British Grand Slam champion was in the President’s Box last night to watch a potential future one make the quarter finals of the US Open.
Virginia Wade made the short trip from her Long Island home to watch Emma Raducanu in the flesh for the first time and, to put it mildly, she did not disappoint.
After an awkward start the 18 year-old from Orpington romped into the quarter finals with a 6-2 6-1 victory over world number 43 Shelby Rogers.
She thus became only the third player in the event’s history to make the last eight, having started in the qualifying 12 days previously. In the last 40 years only the two Jos, Durie and Konta, from GB have made it this far.
By then both were seasoned pros, but this is a truly meteoric ascent, going back to the start of the UK grass court season when she was unknown beyond the most ardent followers of the game.
On court immediately afterwards Raducanu publicly thanked Wade – the 1968 US champion with whom she shares Kent as a home county – for coming, describing her as ‘an absolute legend.’
“It feels absolutely amazing,” said Raducanu. “I feel so happy to have come through and overcome the nerves at the beginning. Shelby has done really well here so I knew it was going to be a tough match.”
She admitted that an added motivation had been seeing fellow teenagers, Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz and Canada’s Leylah Fernandez, also make it through to the last eight: “I really wanted to join them but everyone has their own trajectory,” said Raducanu.
It feels almost academic that she is now assured of being in the world’s top 75 off the back of what is basically just two tournaments.
Her reward now is a meeting with the first opponent she will have met of seriously high calibre, the number eleven seed and recent Olympic champion, Belinda Bencic of Switzerland.
Bencic remains in prime form, and yesterday saw off last year’s French Open champion Iga Swiatek 6-3 7-6.
The Swiss will meet a player who has yet to drop a set in seven matches going all the way back to a week last Wednesday. So far she has shown a head for heights, even when thrust onto the biggest stage in the whole sport.
It was inevitable that sooner or later Raducanu would get elevated to the vast Arthur Ashe Stadium, and that in itself was a challenge.
Its sightlines and sheer scale are very different to the sunken Court 17 where she had played two of her previous matches, and the American had the advantage of being placed on there for her previous match.
Bagging a victory over Wimbledon champion Ash Barty in the same arena was a useful form of preparation, although that win took place at night when the conditions are slightly slower.
A key battleground would be how Raducanu, fast looking an outstanding returner by any standards, would handle the formidable Rogers serve.
It took Raducanu the first quarter of an hour to both find her bearings in the cavernous arena and adjust to the greater weight of shot coming at her from the other end than in previous rounds.
Rogers claimed fourth break point in the opening game and then held clung on to her serve in the second with a difficulty that was a herald of what was to come.
Crucially, Raducanu fended off two break points in the third game and then she was off an away, adjusted to the new dimensions facing her.
The American is not the silkiest mover, and Raducanu slowly began to exploit that. It helped that Rogers, becoming increasingly alarmed, played a terrible sixth game which, for the first time, gave her a clear lead for the first time at 4-2.
When she shaved the baseline with a forehand to clinch the set it was fast becoming another rout.
Rogers was rendered more and more helpless, and in truth her home crowd was not doing much to help her, despite her being the last American woman standing in the singles draw.
It would not have helped that she is among the lowest profile of her country’s top 50 players, nor that her groundstroking proved woefully inconsistent, as good as Raducanu was.
Rogers made it more competitive at the end, arresting what was a second run in the last two rounds of eleven straight games to Raducanu. Four match points were needed to finish it off at the end, but aside from that the young Brit made this look like a stroll through Central Park.