Emma Raducanu , the smiling assassin, had just obliterated her opponent at the US Open — and that presented a dilemma for Tim Henman.
The former GB No 1, one of the few Brits to have made it over here through his work for Amazon, had looked on as Raducanu made Monday’s last 16 for the loss of just one game.
Knowing a bit about being burdened with expectation, Henman recognises the dangers of over-reacting to a few startling performances.
Emma Raducanu continues her US Open journey on Monday at the last-16 stage
The British teenager demolished Sara Torribes Tormo to move into the second week
‘I’m reluctant to contribute to people getting carried away but the truth is it was phenomenal,’ he admitted after wandering back in from Court 17. ‘I couldn’t have been more impressed.’
Raducanu’s reward for demolishing Sara Torribes Tormo is a match on Monday against world No 43 Shelby Rogers for a place in the quarter-final.
She had been due to face world No 1 Ash Barty, but on Saturday night the 28-year-old from South Carolina shocked the Australian by coming from behind to beat her in a deciding set.
As at Wimbledon, that presents the Kent 18-year-old with a beatable opponent and the question will be how she reacts.
Raducanu now faces world No 43 Shelby Rogers, who is another beatable player for the Brit
The pressure will be greater than had she played a somewhat weary Barty, who was showings the signs of the marathon road trip that has seen her away from home since March.
Not that Rogers is exactly playing without scrutiny at her home Grand Slam. The ninthranked player in her country, she is the last American remaining in a women’s draw that was originally full of them.
She will be up against the shock of the new in Raducanu, who is entering territory very rarely plotted in women’s tennis.
While age makes pure comparisons difficult, reaching the fourth round in your first two Grand Slams is something confined to the very few.
Rogers (right), however, knocked out Wimbledon champion Ash Barty (left) on Saturday
In modern times, for example, both Jennifer Capriati and Monica Seles made the last 16 and the semifinal of their first two majors.
Their tennis upbringings could hardly have been more different from that of the British player, as they were hot-housed from a very young age in Florida academies.
Raducanu completed her A-levels, and, due to a combination of her studies and the pandemic, did not play on the WTA Tour from February last year until this June. That is why she has appeared as a bolt from the blue to anyone outside the game’s closest followers, and why she is improving by the week.
That absence was also the reason why she suddenly became emotionally and physically overwhelmed amid the cauldron of her delayed-for-TV fourth round at Wimbledon. It is unlikely to happen again at this same stage.
Raducanu is unlikely to face the pressure she faced at Wimbledon, which ended in trauma
Rogers is a physically strong baseliner with a decent serve who has reached the last eight at Grand Slams twice before. She has had a solid enough if unspectacular year with a 23-19 match record. The cheerful American acknowledged that she knew little of Raducanu’s game.
‘I’m going to have to do a little bit of scouting I think but she’s fearless,’ said Rogers. ‘She is playing very well and she’s inspired. It’s really cool to see the younger generation coming up in this tournament, getting some big wins. It’s impressive and it’s going to be a battle.’
The winner will face last month’s Olympic gold medallist Belinda Bencic or 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek.
If Rogers listens to Henman then she will know that she faces someone with no obvious weaknesses to attack.
Raducanu will face Belinda Bencic or Iga Swiatek in the next round if she gets past Rogers
‘Emma is already technically very tight and solid, of course improvements can be made but you really don’t need to change much there,’ he said.
On Saturday, it was instructive to observe Raducanu taking on her round of media post-match responsibilities, which do not seem to faze her.
While some of her compatriots treat every question ultra-cautiously, she gives thoughtful and concise answers.
Having done outdoor TV interviews, she obligingly went over to pose for selfies with some onlooking British fans. Such things are yet to become a chore.
The American, however, will have a home crowd at Flushing Meadows in Monday’s match
‘Shelby is going to be playing in front of her home crowd and that gives you a different level of motivation,’ she said.
‘I’m feeling extremely fresh. The last year and a half really I haven’t competed much, so nothing has entirely prepared me for playing in front of so many people.
‘But I think that by not playing you realise the hunger and determination that you have to be out there. You just want to keep going.’