Clara Tauson determined to emulate junior rival Emma Raducanu’s success

·4 min read

Clara Tauson admits to mixed feelings watching her former junior rivals Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez battling it out for the US Open trophy last year.

“I wanted to be there myself, of course,” she tells the PA news agency with a rueful grin.

The trio were all born within four months of each other, with Fernandez the oldest and Tauson the youngest, and have been doing battle since their early teenage years.

Tauson had bragging rights having lost only once to each of her foes, beating Fernandez in the Australian Open junior final in 2019 and Raducanu in the final of a second-tier event the week prior to the British star’s incredible New York run.

“I’d just beaten Emma the week before the US Open and I was like, ‘Oh my God, she’s playing amazing’,” says Tauson, a former world junior number one.

“I think she really peaked at the US Open. When we played it was a really tough match and we played for almost three hours and it was a real battle, so, seeing both her and Leylah in the final, it was tough on me but it was also a booster knowing that you can be there and you can also be in a grand slam final.

“Obviously you have to win a lot of matches and play on a really high level but just knowing that you can beat those kind of players gives you a lot of confidence I think.”

Fast forward to the next grand slam tournament in Melbourne and Tauson is the only one of the trio left, with Fernandez losing in the first round and Raducanu the second.

The Dane, who turned 19 in December, has made an impressive transition from juniors to the main tour and produced one of the performances of the week to defeat sixth seed Anett Kontaveit in the second round.

Tauson is hungry to emulate Raducanu and Fernandez, saying: “I want to be the best if it’s my generation, older, younger, everything.

“So the competition is all over the place but I think we push each other all the time and that’s really good for our sport and for the younger generation also that they can see we made it and they can do it as well.

Clara Tauson had mixed feelings about the US Open final between her junior rivals Emma Raducanu, right, and Leylah Fernandez
Clara Tauson had mixed feelings about the US Open final between her junior rivals Emma Raducanu, right, and Leylah Fernandez (ZUMA)

“I think that’s what we need in tennis and that’s always been what we needed. You see Rafa, Roger, Djoko, they’re always pushing each other to become better and I think that’s how it works.”

Unlike Raducanu, who fitted in tennis around regular schooling until last spring, Tauson has been focused primarily on her sport since the age of 10.

Comparisons with fellow Dane Caroline Wozniacki, who won the Australian Open title the year before Tauson triumphed in the juniors, are inevitable but, aside from long blonde hair, the pair have little in common on court and are not in contact.

Tauson’s game is based on first-strike tennis and her forehand took Kontaveit apart.

Now the cool-headed teenager will take on American Danielle Collins and it is far from inconceivable that she could be the next breakthrough slam champion next weekend.

“Knowing that I can beat a lot of the good players, I did it in the smaller tournaments but I feel I can do it here also,” she says.

“I think I have a lot of confidence right now, I feel I’m playing great. I’m more settled now on the tour, I know everybody and they know me. That’s something I’ve always dreamed about, and hopefully staying at the top also. It’s been really fun.

“I love the courts here. They’re a little bit faster than the US Open and I feel great on them. I played a good junior tournament here and we got to play the final on Rod Laver, so I’ve played on that court.

“That’s always nice to know that you’ve played on the big courts and played some good tennis. I have some great memories from here and I hope I can keep on having great memories.”