NEW YORK (Reuters) – Saturday’s US Open women’s final went smoothly for teenage sensations Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez, but before either of them had a chance to lift the trophy, there are storm water warnings ahead.
Toast the tennis world for their breathtaking success on the hard courts of Flushing Meadows, Britain’s Raducanu, 18, and Canadian Fernandez, 19, ignited the sport with their fearless game and joie de vivre.
But at the end of the tournament, they will come out of their Grand Slam dream to enter the cold reality of everyday life, weighed down by expectations and obligations that were not part of their life two weeks ago.
The US Open may be over, but next Monday many fans will expect Raducanu and Fernandez to continue competing at the same extraordinary level as in New York.
“Everyone’s going to want them, every tournament is going to want them to play,” said Ashley Keber, WTA Tour Member Relations vice president, who leads a team that develops programs and resources for players and their teams.
Virtual strangers at the start of the year, Raducanu and Fernandez are no longer anonymous faces for New York crowds chanting their names and celebrities praising on social media.
After her semi-final victory over Maria Sakkari on Thursday, a reporter asked Raducanu what it was like to be Britain’s most famous person.
A lot of things to digest for a schoolgirl passionate about tennis who passed her baccalaureate, her final high school exams, in June.
From royalty and prime ministers of Canada and Great Britain to sports stars and celebrities, the world has taken note, and so has the WTA.
While the WTA has programs in place to help players cope with the demands of the sport, Keber acknowledged that Raducanu and Fernandez will need a little more diligence.
With the Serena and Venus Williams era coming to an end, the timing of the teenage arrival is impeccable as tennis seeks to fill a void with marketable and engaging personalities.
Protecting these assets against additional stress will be a priority.
“It will require additional attention,” Keber told Reuters. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and on the biggest stage in sports, so for example, these two women participated in our mentoring sessions.
“It will be a vulnerable time for them, win or lose and it’s not just in the next couple of days. It will be many months, and I think that’s where their teams can reach out to us.”
It was magical in the Big Apple as the youngsters produced upheaval after upheaval, outclassing a succession of experienced opponents.
Their time in New York was not encumbered by the burden of expectations and the pressure that comes with them.
The song “New York, New York” says, “If I can do it, I’ll do it anywhere,” and Raducanu and Fernandez will soon find out.
“Now there’s no pressure on her (Fernandez),” said second seed Aryna Sabalenka after being knocked out in the semifinals by the 73rd-ranked Canadian. “The crowds are there for her. You kind of feel that crush and you use it, hit the ball, don’t really think it through, it’s all happening.
“It’s a nice feeling. I’ve felt it before.
“But the question is, when will you start to understand what’s going on and where you are at, how well can you handle all of this expectation and all of this level, all of this pressure.”
You don’t have to search much to find uplifting stories.
Fernandez and Raducanu gave off an invincible aura, as did Naomi Osaka.
At 20, Osaka was the next big tennis event in 2018, winning the first of its four Grand Slam titles at the same Arthur Ashe stadium.
The three years since have been difficult for Osaka, which has struggled to keep up with overwhelming expectations, focusing on the mental health of athletes.
Beaten https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/us-open-champion-osaka-loses-third-round-canadian-fernandez-2021-09-04 in the third round by Fernandez last week, the distraught defender The champion left Flushing Meadows saying she didn’t know when she would play again.
“We’ve seen this before and that’s where we get our knowledge and try to get ahead of some of these things,” Keber said. “We can’t predict on an individual level, but we’ve seen some of the warning signs overall.
“Let’s be honest, these are tough times, people are growing up, they’re going to make mistakes.
“It doesn’t mean that it will be perfect or that the path will be smooth, but how can we make it as smooth as possible.”