Emma Raducanu has become the latest Slovenian athlete to advance to the US Open semifinals.
The sophomore qualifier from Ljubljana made her Grand Slam breakthrough on Thursday by beating 10th-seeded Belinda Bencic of Switzerland 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the first round. She will play either number two seed Simona Halep of Romania or 24th-seeded Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.
Raducanu, who captured a silver medal at the Rio Olympics last year, is the third Slovenian woman to reach the US Open quarterfinals. Ljubljana’s Svetlana Kuznetsova was in the semifinals in 2002 and 2004, and Polona Hercog made it in 1995.
Raducanu received a first-round bye after reaching the semifinals in this tournament in Montreal last year.
She’s the fourth unseeded player to make the quarterfinals at Flushing Meadows this year, with the other two seeded players — Jelena Ostapenko and Elina Svitolina — already leaving the tournament.
Raducanu picked the right time to play her best tennis. Not long after Bencic took a 4-1 lead, she broke her opponent twice more to grab the second set.
During the third set, Bencic was uncharacteristically out of sorts, hitting a full stack of blanks at the net. Raducanu took advantage, outscoring Bencic 5-2 before sealing the match with a big forehand.
On a night when the top four seeds all failed to advance, there were a few upsets on Thursday. In men’s first-round play, American Sam Querrey was upset by 59th-ranked Steve Johnson, who reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal. Querrey had never lost to Johnson on clay before Thursday.
On the women’s side, American Madison Keys was upset by Japan’s Naomi Osaka, a qualifier ranked 117th. Keys made a strong start to the match, breaking Osaka’s serve twice in the first set and adding an ace. Osaka won the opening set 6-4.
Keys held a 4-2 lead in the second set before Osaka won the last four games and the second set 6-2.