Maria Sakkari, one of the best waitresses in the world, reached the semi-final with a supreme service performance against Karolina Pliskova, the world No.4. Two days later, that same service was gutted by Raducanu, who is constantly looking to strike his return. early. His ability to put immense strain on the server by deflecting first serves with relentless depth and attacking lower quality second serves has been a determining factor in his success. This allowed him to recover immediately from a poor start and it gives him a say in every second leg.
Raducanu’s service is not as supreme as his comeback, but in New York it has been crisp, reliable and precise. Against Belinda Bencic and Sakkari, two players who favor their backhand, her favorite slice serve off the court of two was extremely effective, as it will be in the final against Leylah Fernandez, a left-hander. Over the past three weeks, Raducanu has embarked on numerous back-to-back match streaks which have been aided by his ability to produce timely free points on closed serve and slam serve matches. His second serve, once a source of frustration, has increased in rhythm and lift. In the two biggest games of her career, she daringly averaged over 90 mph on her second delivery.
Throughout the tournament, the majority of Raducanu’s opponents tried to break his forehand. While this was at times her most problematic stroke, it held up incredibly well in New York City and she constantly sought to control the stitches with it. His ability to redirect the rhythm of this wing is solid and it produces considerably more spin, allowing him to confuse his opponents with more curly balls to complement his clean, early ball strike.
His backhand is the other jewel of his game. His ability to enter the field and steal time from his opponents by taking the ball early is already an elite. Likewise, her natural timing and manual skills mean her backhand on the line has consistently torn up opponents’ defenses over the summer and she’s also adept at creating width by rolling it across. His backhand is powerful in attack but also extremely consistent and strong in return and defense.
If his game has a fault, it is his inexperience on the forecourt. As none other than Martina Navratilova pointed out on Thursday, her volleys are technically strong, but she’s much more comfortable negotiating with opponents from the baseline. Likewise, backhand slices and drop shots are rare. Implementing more variety in his game will be a point of evolution as his game progresses.
After her quarter-final victory over Bencic, Raducanu admitted she was surprised by his movement and the number of balls she was able to regain. She is a great athlete and throughout the week as the quality of the opposition has grown her defense has become more and more crucial. After following Bencic from the start, she went further behind the baseline and quickly realized that her move gave her many more options and allowed her to be patient. His ability to switch from defense to attack has also noticeably improved over the course of the tournament.
The same can be said for her physical sturdiness, which was once a constant source of frustration and she got into trouble frequently. Raducanu has now played nine matches in three weeks and 19 since early August, but she looks fresher than ever.
Most players, especially at 18, normally have at least one obvious weakness that opponents can exploit. Perhaps its greatest strength lies in the way all the assets combine to create such a complete game, with no real holes. In addition to the solid foundation of her game, Raducanu is extremely intelligent and has shown great tactical flexibility in matches.
After playing so few matches at the highest level, her journey has forced her to constantly adapt to new situations, which she has always known how to master. Allied to his intelligence are, of course, the mental strength and composure that have allowed him to come together every moment so far and play his best tennis under the highest pressure. She will try to use it again in her first Grand Slam final.