‘Guys are hungry, guys are like, ‘it’s the f****** Open, I got to f****** push’: Teen stars Emma Raducanu, Carlos Alcaraz and Leylah Fernandez seize chance to shine at US Open and eclipse absent old guard of Nadal, Federer and Serena
- Rising British star Emma Raducanu has enjoyed a stunning run at first US Open
- Spain ‘s Carlo Alcaraz and Canada ‘s Leylah Fernandez are through to last eight
- Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Serena Williams had to skip the tournament
A US Open that had been mourning the absence of the old greats has turned out to be the launchpad for teenagers.
Leading the way have been the pair who have burst into the men’s and women’s quarter finals, Spain’s Carlo Alcaraz and Canada’s Leylah Fernandez. On Monday night Emma Raducanu had the chance to join their number as she tackled America’s Shelby Rogers.
While Rafael Nadal was winning a golf tournament back in Mallorca this weekend, 18 year-old Alcaraz was powering his way into the last eight with a five-set win over Germany’s Peter Gojowczyk.
Rising British star Emma Raducanu has enjoyed a stunning run at her first US Open
The likes of Nadal, Roger Federer and Serena Williams slipped further into the sub-conscious when Fernandez, who only turned 19 on Monday, beat former Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber.
They have contributed to making the first half of this event one of the best weeks of tennis in living memory.
Alcaraz began the fortnight by knocking out Britain’s Cam Norrie with a performance of startling quality. Both he and Fernandez have gone on to beat the third seeds in their events, Stefanos Tsitsipas and women’s defending champion Naomi Osaka.
The Spaniard hails from Murcia in the country’s South East, and will naturally exact comparisons with Nadal.
This is something of a ball and chain, as pointed out by his mentor, Juan Carlos Ferrero. Briefly world number one before Nadal and Federer made it to the top, Ferrero tries to downplay any parallels.
Carlos Alcaraz powered his way into the last eight with a five-set win over Peter Gojowczyk
There are, infact, many differences. Alcaraz plays right handed and is a slighter figure than his compatriot. He plays more aggressively, hits the ball flatter and has clearly spent more time on hard courts at this stage of his development. He is extremely quick with a seriously big forehand, and one thing that is definitely reminiscent of Nadal is the intense focus he brings to every point.
Alcaraz now faces Felix Auger-Aliassime, another key figure from the unlikely tennis boom that has been seen in Canada.
Like him, the even younger Fernandez comes from Quebec and would cite her father as the driving influence of her career.
Jorge Fernandez was a professional footballer originally from Ecuador with no background in tennis, but taught himself so he could be her coach. Her mother is originally from the Philippines and they met in Canada.
Leylah Fernandez seems to have been enjoying herself immensely during her run to last eight
There are actually a few parallels with Raducanu in that the two of them were born in Canada to parents who emigrated there. Obviously a big divergence is that at the age of two the latter’s family moved on to the UK.
Another similarity is that Fernandez seems to have been enjoying herself immensely during her run at Flushing Meadows.
As with the British player, there was an emphasis when growing up that there should be some balance in life, and that tennis should not be the be-all and end-all of her existence.
After her latest triumph Fernandez, whose father has stayed at home with her sister, recalled: ‘The way that my parents would teach me off court, saying that you can’t take things too seriously, you’ve got to be mature but at the same time just be a kid, let loose, have fun, eat chocolate when you want to, and just have fun, watch movies, go past your bedtime.’
She now faces Elina Svitolina, the ultra-consistent Ukrainian.
The energising presence of crowds has contributed to so many memorable matches, on courts that have been speeded up.
Legends Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Serena Williams had to skip the tournament
After seven days there had been 33 men’s contests that had gone to five sets and ten of them had seen comebacks from two sets to love down.
American Frances Tiafoe, who lost in four sets to Auger-Aliassime, had another idea as to why there have been so many tight contests.
Afterwards he put forward the theory, in colourful language, that the absence of some of the sport’s biggest names has been focussing minds.
‘You don’t have Roger, Rafa. Guys are hungry, guys are like, ‘it’s the f****** Open, I got to f****** push.
‘So I think that has definitely a part to play in it. Level of tennis is high. Anyone can beat anyone. You have qualifiers in the round of 16. Everyone’s good, if you don’t show up to play, you can lose to anyone.
‘I definitely think guys are trying extra hard. I see guys foaming in the mouth, pretty funny to watch, I’m in the locker room cracking up. You have (Andreas) Seppi at 37 playing 15-13 in the fifth. What’s that about? He’s probably not doing that if he plays Rafa the second round, probably, like, I’m done.’
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