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Emma Raducanu’s incredible record-breaking US Open performances have seen her compared to Muhammad Ali by tennis great Boris Becker.
World number 150 Raducanu is the first ever qualifier to reach a Grand Slam final, and has done so in astonishing fashion as she is yet to drop a set in the competition.
Her performances have earned plaudits from across the globe, but perhaps the biggest yet has come from six-time Grand Slam winner Becker.
Muhammad Ali is one of sport’s all-time greats, with the former heavyweight champion transcending boxing with his incredible personality outside of the ring, but it’s his exploits inside that remind Becker of Raducanu.
“Watching Emma Raducanu this week has brought to my mind what used to be said of Muhammad Ali: Floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee,” he said.
“If there is one thing that has stood out above anything else, it is her movement.
“So free-flowing, it allows her to get into the right position to play the shot, and when she needs to she delivers the sting.”
The teen has breezed past her opponents with comfort and style in New York, gliding round the court with error-free displays and a deftness of touch at the net.
And she will make history again on Saturday night, playing in the first men’s or women’s major final featuring unseeded players since the Open Era began in 1968.
Becker became the youngest ever male Grand Slam winner in history in 1985 when he won Wimbledon at the age of 17 years and 227 days, and he had some philosophical advice for Raducanu on how to prepare.
“My advice would be very limited, just let nature take its course,” Becker said.
“When you are in your late teens you do not have the same doubts as you might when you are older – that was the way it was with me and it seems to be the case for her.”
But when it comes to who’s the favourite for tonight’s match, Becker believes the slightly-lesser experienced teen has the edge.
“I would make Raducanu slight favourite for this match,” he continued. “The fact that she has had a less arduous path to the final could be the decisive factor, but I cannot stress how impressed I have been by both of them.
“Do not underestimate how difficult it is to win all your matches in straight sets, as has been the case with Raducanu.
“Forget that she is young and inexperienced and certainly forget her ranking, it has been staggering how well she has played.”
Raducanu has been away from her home country across the pond, and away from her family, which Becker believes has helped her avoid the pressure.
“I will admit that I thought it might all catch up with her when she got to the fourth round or quarter-finals, like it did at Wimbledon,” Becker explained.
“I think it must have helped that she is in New York, rather than SW19, where she knows fewer people and has a smaller team around her.
“It has been easier to insulate herself from any hysteria, and clearly the weeks of proper training and tournament play since the grass season have made a huge difference. Physically she may have the edge, which makes me feel good about her chances.”