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Emma Raducanu of Great Britain fields questions during media day before the start of the US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City. Image Credit: AFP

U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu feels her run to the 2021 Flushing Meadows final along with Canadian Leylah Fernandez made a statement on behalf of the next generation and underlined the depth of women’s tennis.

Born a couple of months apart in 2002, teenagers Raducanu and Fernandez rose from obscurity last year at Flushing Meadows to contest the first grand slam final between unseeded players.

“I think the message is how strong the next generation is,” Raducanu, now 19 and ranked 11th in the world, told reporters on Friday. “I mean, we’re both really young. We’re going to be playing the sport for a long time.

Strong field

“Just the depth of the women’s game as well, I think it’s so deep that we’re both able to achieve that. I was ranked 150. I don’t know what Leylah was ranked before the tournament. Yeah, the women’s field is really, really strong.” Last year Raducanu went on to become the first qualifier to win a major title, and she believes that the pair’s impressive runs at the hardcourt major provided hope to many players outside the top names of the sport.

“I think also since then, qualifying is viewed as a good thing. I don’t think it’s viewed as, ‘Oh, you’re in qualifying’,” Raducanu told reporters ahead of the start of the main draw of the U.S. Open from Monday.

Top players

“But I also think that a lot of other players in the field have the belief, like, ‘I can do that, too’. Maybe before there was this stigma that only the top few players could do it. I think what we achieved shows that anything can happen really.” Raducanu said memories of how nervous she was on the morning of the 2021 final flooded back to her mind when she returned to Flushing Meadows for her title defence.

“I think defending a title is just something that the press makes up. I’m just taking it one match at a time,” she said, adding that she did not have any injury issues.

“As I said last year, I’m just going to do things my way.”