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After Her Fairy Tale of New York, Emma Raducanu Achieves a Little Miracle in France

Emma Raducanu BNP Paribas Open-Day 4

Other than the Pogues and Kirsty McColl, no one may be more associated with the song “Fairytale of New York” than Emma Raducanu. The phrase was almost universally used to describe her amazing US Open win in 2021 when she became the first player in tennis history, male or female, to win a Major as a qualifier.

After the fairytale ended, of course, it has mostly been a harsh reality for Raducanu, who has struggled to get anywhere close to that kind of achievement – until this weekend, when she achieved a little miracle in France and led Great Britain to the finals of the Billie Jean King Cup.

Read More: Can Emma Raducanu Make It A Hat Trick Of British Winners Of The US Open?

Raducanu Achieves A Little Miracle in France

By winning both her singles matches in the BJK Cup qualifier between GB and France, Raducanu attained the second-greatest achievement of her career so far. It may still be a long way behind her greatest achievement, namely winning at Flushing Meadow nearly three years ago, but given the enormous obstacles that she has faced in her career ever since winning the US Open, principally with injury, it is almost comparable in importance for Raducanu herself. Indeed, it may ultimately prove to be even more important for her.

Quite frankly, Raducanu had shown so little consistent form since her still-stunning debut Major win that many observers had begun to wonder whether she was just a “One-Slam Pony”, who had somehow lucked into winning the US Open by playing completely above herself and her normal level for a fortnight. Now, however, Raducanu has surely banished such doubters and naysayers forever.

In New York in 2021, Raducanu had made the extremely difficult – indeed, the hitherto impossible – look ridiculously easy, as she won 10 successive matches in straight sets (including three in qualifying) to win the tournament. In Le Portel last weekend, she almost managed to repeat that remarkable feat by somehow beating two crack French players, both of whom were far more experienced than her on clay, both times after losing the first set.

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Raducanu Powers Past Best in the World

On Friday against Caroline Garcia, the mercurial French woman who has been as high as No. 4 in the world rankings and who has twice won the WTA Finals (the second time as recently as 18 months ago), Raducanu was under enormous pressure. After losing the first set, she was facing not only defeat in her own match, but the possibility that GB would be left on the brink of overall defeat in the tie after Katie Boulter had surprisingly been thrashed by Diane Parry 6-2, 6-0. The fear among British tennis fans was that if Boulter, who has been in such fine form recently, could be dismissed so easily, what hope was there for Raducanu, who has been in such wretched form for so long?

Ultimately, Raducanu banished all those fears by responding brilliantly to losing the first set to Garcia. Indeed, it was almost as if she was back on the hardcourt of New York in 2021 as she somehow – indeed, almost literally from nowhere – found all the form that she had mislaid for over two and a half years.

In the second and third sets against Garcia, Raducanu reminded everyone, especially Garcia and the stunned crowd in Le Portel, that at her best, she is indeed a Major-winner. She was like a steel-clad wasp as she came forward relentlessly, smacking winners on both the forehand and backhand sides, and suddenly displaying the supreme all-court mobility that is such a vital part of her game. Even the (potentially) great Garcia had no answer for it, and Raducanu duly won the match for the loss of just five more games, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

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Raducanu Rinsed And Repeated Against Parry

If anything, Raducanu’s second singles performance of the weekend, against Boulter’s conqueror Parry, was even more impressive, precisely because she backed up one brilliant match with another for the first time since her New York triumph.

Parry had been so hugely impressive against Boulter that she had even conjured up memories of the finest French female players on clay, notably Mary Pierce, the 2000 French Open winner and the most recent French Roland Garros winner of either gender.  However, after losing a hard-fought first set to Parry 6-4, Raducanu again responded magnificently. She swept the young French woman aside in the second set and swept through it to win it 6-1, then carried forward all that momentum into the third set to take a commanding 5-2 lead.

Then, when Raducanu appeared on the brink of a comfortable three-sets victory to secure overall victory in the tie for Britain, she faltered, or rather Parry improved dramatically to level the third set 6-6 and take the match to a tie-break. If ever Raducanu’s game was going to fall apart, as it has done almost perpetually since her US Open victory, now was the time. Parry had all the momentum going into the tie-break, and Raducanu would have had to be inhuman not to fear fatigue catching up with her. But for a final time, Raducanu rose superbly to the task and destroyed Parry in the tie-break to win it 7-1, and with it the tie for Great Britain 3-1.

Where Next For Raducanu?

Raducanu is just the latest example of how team tennis, especially intense international team tennis of the kind that the Davis Cup and the Billie Jean King Cup provide, can be a catalyst for a player, male or female, to rediscover their best form. Even the great Novak Djokovic was only really set on the path to his decade (or more) of domination by leading Serbia to the Davis Cup in 2010. And more recently, Jannik Sinner copied Djokovic’s example by winning the Davis Cup for Italy last November and then winning the very next Major that he competed in, namely this year’s Australian Open.

Only time will tell if this remarkable pair of results for Great Britain can have the same effect on Raducanu. She now has to translate all her achievements within a team context into sustained improvement as an individual player on the WTA Tour. But if she can do that, she will show everyone, and not just the British tennis fans who cheered her on this weekend, that she has already won one Major and has all the weapons to win other Majors in the future.

Read more: Jannik Sinner Completes The Miracle Of Málaga To Win Davis Cup For Italy

Main Photo Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea – USA TODAY Sports


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