On the same day that Ashleigh Barty faces Jil Teichmann in the WTA Cincinnati final, 300 miles away in the Chicago Challenger event, two teenagers also contest a senior final. Denmark’s Clara Tauson and Emma Raducanu from Great Britain face off in the battle of the 18-year-olds.
From Sunderland To Chicago
Despite their tender years, this will not be their first meeting in the senior ranks. Rather bizarrely I myself was present for their previous one in 2020. The duo met at the semifinal stage of an ITF event in Sunderland, England in February, just before the first lockdown in the UK. This was an indoor hard event, of course, it would be madness to stage an event outdoors in Sunderland in February, trust me on that.
At the time Tauson was much talked about and was in sensational form. Her parents were there to watch at the event but on the day Raducanu was sensational. The Brit displayed a lot of the same attributes that the wider world saw in her Wimbledon run and here in Chicago. Powerful and precise serving, crisp, deep groundstrokes, and an ability to not be phased by the finishing line. That 6-4 6-2 victory in Sunderland was, in fact, Raducanu’s last win in the senior ranks for 16 months until ITF Nottingham two weeks before that Wimbledon run. Of course, this wasn’t due to form on the Briton’s part, it was principally as a result of the pandemic and also the fact that Raducanu was finishing her education at college.
Meanwhile, Tauson clearly didn’t suffer any ill effects from that defeat. The tall Dane has won four titles since that day, including a WTA250 title in Lyon. Most expected Tauson to kick on from that title win against Viktorija Golubic but that hasn’t been the case. The match against Ann Li in the semifinals in Chicago was her first semifinal since that title in March 2021.
The Near Future
The organizers in Chicago for this Oracle Challenger Series event couldn’t surely have dreamt of such an intriguing final. To have two 18-year-olds on the verge of the top 100 battling it out for the title is a good result. However, it is my contention that these two young players have the ability to go deep into the WTA rankings in the near future. Tauson, as already stated, has already broken her duck in terms of tournament wins on tour and Raducanu showed her ability in reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon on debut, beating Marketa Vondrousova and Sorana Cirstea en route to that Centre Court match against Alja Tomljanovic.
The way Raducanu retired from that match caused some controversy and consternation at the time, and interestingly, the only match the Briton has lost out of her last nine was also a retirement, in Landisville last week. Therefore there are still some question marks over Raducanu’s physicality but she is still very much on the learning curve on tour. She has only begun life as a full-time tennis player very recently so these results are extra impressive bearing that in mind.
How Do They Play?
Both players have a fantastic toolkit on the court. Tauson’s physical presence is intimidating. She is tall, rangy, and strong, this does mean that she can be stretched on her movement but she is very athletic as well. That height really helps her serve and her 75% hold rate on hard courts on the WTA tour proves that her service is very effective. Raducanu herself (from a very small sample) holds at 68% which is still impressive. The Briton is solid off both wings and isn’t afraid to find the lines, but her most impressive attribute is her depth of shot. This caught out Claire Liu on numerous occasions in the semifinal and is a good trait to have moving forwards.
How Far Can They Go?
Obviously, there is a massive difference between breaking into the top 100 and challenging for the biggest titles. But having watched both players on numerous occasions now I genuinely believe that both can make it to the top of the game. It would be a huge surprise if this was either player’s ceiling. 2022 and beyond for the next decade will see both Clara Tauson and Emma Raducanu as regular names in bigger finals than this one, maybe even Grand Slams.
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