I have watched a lot of tennis over the last couple of weeks. The US Open finished on Sunday and both the men’s and women’s champions were not supposed to win.
Daniil Medvedev beat World Number 1 Novak Djokovic in the men’s final. That was an upset but not a complete shock as he was World Number 2 and most people expected him to be in the final.
No-one expected Emma Raducanu to be the women’s champion. No-one even expected her to be in the final. In fact, she had to win three extra games before the tournament started to be allowed to play at all! Oh, and she is only 18 years old. Before the tournament started, some ‘experts’ did not think she was strong enough to compete at this level. These ‘experts’ were basing their opinion on what happened to her at Wimbledon in July.
Raducanu is British and Wimbledon is her home Grand Slam tournament. Her home crowd was very excited that she won three matches. Unfortunately, after some particularly intense points in her fourth match, Raducanu felt dizzy and had trouble breathing. She could not get her breathing under control and, on the advice of the tournament doctor, defaulted the match to her opponent.
Some high profile ‘experts’ thought that everyone would like to hear their ‘expert’ opinion that Raducanu just was not strong enough. Raducanu herself offered no excuses after the match and said that she thought the ‘whole experience caught up with me’ and ‘will go a long way to helping me learn what it takes to perform at the top. I will cherish everything we have achieved together this week, and come back stronger.’
Given that she won the US Open without losing a single set, she obviously learned quite a lot from that Wimbledon experience. Raducanu was wise enough to apply the knowledge she gained from her Wimbledon disappointment to adapt how she prepared and played at the US Open. Importantly, she was also humble enough to know that she needed the support of her family and coaches to help her make sense of what happened at Wimbledon and adapt her game.
I don’t think it is a coincidence that Raducanu won the US Open just a couple of months after her Wimbledon experience. I think that being supported through that difficult experience helped her develop the wisdom and humility she needed to win a Grand Slam tournament.
Now that she is a champion, some of those same ‘experts’ are wondering aloud if she is strong enough to deal with the pressure that comes with being a champion. I think that they are only doubting her strength because she is young. They are not giving Raducano credit for her wisdom and humility and she has proven that a wise and humble young person can be very, very strong.