18-year-old British Emma Raducanu and 19-year-old Canadian Leylah Fernandez make history in New York: for the first time since the US Open in 1999, 2 teenagers are in a Grand Slam final. Raducanu goes one step further: she is the first to reach a Grand Slam final from qualifying, both men and women.
Raducanu and Fernandez, bring a fresh storm to women’s tennis. For both it is the first Grand Slam final and that is completely unexpected.
Raducanu is only 150th in the world ranking. The tennis world got to know the daughter of a Chinese mother and Romanian father with British nationality at Wimbledon, where she won her first WTA match as number 338 in the world and immediately reached the 1/8th finals.
In it, the emotions became too much for her and she had to give up dizzy. But in New York, the 18-year-old is rock solid. She had no mercy in the semi-finals with the Greek Maria Sakkari (WTA-18): 6-1, 6-4. Also in her 9th match on the US Open hard court (qualifications included) she demonstrated with overview and mastery.
Sakkari simply went through the law of the strongest in a first set that lasted 28 minutes. In the second, the Greek saw her cannon blows return as if Raducanu were a wall, forcing her to make many mistakes.
“I’m in the final and I can’t believe it,” the 18-year-old exclaimed. She is the youngest Grand Slam finalist since 17-year-old Russian Maria Sharapova in 2004 Wimbledon. Great Britain had been waiting for a woman in a Grand Slam final for 44 years.
Fernandez beats Sabalenka
Leylah Fernandez, who celebrated her 19th birthday on September 6, needed a lot more time and effort to distance herself from Aryna Sabalenka, the number 2 in the world. Fernandez (WTA-73) played 3 tough sets against the Belarusian: 7-6 (7/3), 4-6, 6-4.
Sabalenka, who also stranded in the Wimbledon semi-final, cracked at the end of set 1 with 5 direct errors in a row, including a missed smash and a double fault. Fernandez played the crowd, Sabalenka reacted with aggressive tennis and equalized.
But in the 3rd set Fernandez once again proved solid and the error burden was fatal for Sabalenka, the Belarusian gave up the match on her own serve on love after a double double fault.
Fernandez did not steal her final ticket. After Naomi Osaka (WTA-3), Angelique Kerber (WTA-17) and Elina Svitolina (WTA-5) it was her 4th win over a top 20 player in a row. She lost 2 points against Osaka.
But she defeated 3 top 5 players, which hadn’t been possible in a Grand Slam tournament since Serena Williams in Wimbledon 2012.
“That’s years and years of work and tears and blood and sacrifice,” said Fernandez of her mental fortitude.
“I have no idea (how I won),” said Fernandez. “I’d say it’s thanks to the New York crowd. They helped me. They cheered for me. They never gave up.”
Raducanu against Fernandez will be the teen’s first final battle since the American Serena Williams, 17, defeated the Swiss Martina Hingis (18) in the 1999 US Open. The two also provide the first Grand Slam final between 2 unseeded players or players since the Open Era (1968).
Naming a favorite for Saturday’s final is not easy. Raducanu made the most impression in the past 2 weeks. She took every hurdle with ease and authority and never lost a set. Fernandez, however, showed that she can always react in difficult circumstances, so underestimating her would be wrong.