Former British No. 1 Tim Henman believes Emma Raducanu has the weapons to win the US Open title tonight and make even more history.
Raducanu, 18, is the first British woman in a major singles final in 44 years and faces Canadian teenager and world No. 73, Leylah Fernandez, 19.
The Kent youngster is the first ever qualifier in a Grand Slam final after another performance of extraordinary poise saw her defeat seventeenth seed Maria Sakkari 6-1, 6-4 in the semi-final in just 84 minutes.
‘It is phenomenal the way she has gone about it with such limited experience and at such a high level,’ Henman, who made the semi-finals of the US Open in 2004, told Sportsmail.
Emma Raducanu has improved with every round and is still to drop a set in this tournament as her magical run reaches the final
‘She has been outstanding. The key thing is just concentrating on her game plan. She has played on [this court] a couple of times so she knows the surroundings.
‘It is hard at any age to shut out all the noise around her whether it be the media or friends getting in contact. She has to concentrate on what she is doing.’
Henman will be reporting courtside for Amazon Prime, when the match gets underway at 9pm.
The rights-holder will screen the game live, but in a last-minute deal it agreed to share the broadcast with Channel 4, so UK viewers will also be able to watch it on free-to-air TV.
Tim Henman believes that Emma Raducanu’s strength and aggression can win US Open
Raducanu will go for an unthinkable triumph against the Canadian Leylah Fernandez, 19
Amazon has said it will reinvest all of the fees from the deal into British women’s tennis to support the next generation of female talent.
The broadcaster has declined to comment on the amount Channel 4 are paying for the licence to screen the match, but Sportsmail understands it is more than £1million.
Henman, who bagged eleven titles in his career, but never quite managed to land a grand slam, is thrilled at Raducanu’s progress.
His front row seat throughout the tournament has allowed him to see at close quarters Raducanu’s power and steel nerves.
The 18-year-old wore a huge smile at the end as she now turns her attentions to Saturday’s final against Leylah Fernandez
‘Her key strengths would be her mental fortitude, her focus, her concentration, her self-belief. The way she is able to focus,’ he said.
EMMA RADUCANU’S RUN TO THE US OPEN FINAL
Q1: 6-1, 6-2 – beats Bibiane Schoofs – QUALIFYING
Q2: 6-3, 7-5 – beats Mariam Bolkvadze – QUALIFYING
Q3: 6-1, 6-4 – beats Mayar Sherif – QUALIFYING
R1: 6-2, 6-3 – beats Stefanie Vogele
R2: 6-2, 6-4 – beats Zhang Shuai
R3: 6-0, 6-1 – beats Sara Sorribes Tormo
R4: 6-2, 6-1 – beats Shelby Rogers
QF: 6-3, 6-4 – beats Belinda Bencic
SF: 6-1, 6-4 – beats Maria Sakkari
‘But you need a game to compete out there and her tennis itself has been outstanding. She hitting spots well on serve, getting the opportunity to dictate from the back of the court. Her ground strokes are so aggressive.
‘She is aggressive strong, and a great athlete. Nothing needs to change. Hopefully she can get one more win. It is amazing. We are massively excited.’
Raducanu has enjoyed an unforgettable journey to the final and is even being labelled as the favourite for her encounter with Fernandez – but the Brit insists she has no pressure on her shoulders having begun the tournament as a qualifier.
‘Is there any expectation?’ Raducanu asked jokingly. ‘I’m a qualifier so there’s no pressure on me!’
She added: ‘Honestly the time here in New York has gone so fast, I’ve been taking care of each day and before you know it three weeks later, I’m in the final, I can’t actually believe it.
‘Since I’ve been here, I’ve had great support. Playing under the lights on Arthur Ashe Stadium is one of the most iconic things in tennis. I was so excited.’
The Amazon broadcast team are heavily invested in Raducanu’s attempt to win the tournament.
The broadcaster has already funded Raducanu’s amazing journey, contributing £60,000 towards her development through the Prime Video Future Talent Award in 2019.
One of the judges in the competition was Henman and the mentor for the scheme was Britain’s Andy Murray.
Defensively Raducanu has been breathtaking, neutralising and then countering with a punch
‘Emma’s journey from qualification through to the US Open final at the age of 18 is a truly magical story for British sport and we think it’s important that we extend our coverage to as many people as possible to support her in this historic moment for women’s tennis,’ said Alex Green, MD Prime Video Sport Europe.
Green has overseen a big commitment to women’s tennis by the broadcaster. Amazon Prime secured the rights to the US Open for five years from 2018 and then added exclusive coverage of 37 ATP Tour events the following year in another five-year deal.
‘Young tennis talent such as Emma need the right support to become the stars we see today and we’re delighted to be able to commit even more investment to the next generation of women’s tennis in the UK,’ added Green.
Amazon has also agreed a highlights deal with BBC Sport for a programme that will air on Sunday afternoon and Channel 4 have swooped in to secure the live rights in a major boost for tennis fans in the UK.
Raducanu alongside Murray and Jack Draper at the National Tennis Centre two years ago