Britain’s Emma Raducanu completed a Grand Slam fairytale on Saturday, September 11 (Sunday, September 12, Manila time), by beating Canadian Leylah Fernandez, 6-4, 6-3, in the battle of the teens to be crowned US Open champion.
The 18-year-old became the first ever qualifier to win a Grand Slam title and the first British woman to hoist a major trophy since Virginia Wade triumphed at Wimbledon in 1977.
“As for the three weeks I’ve spent in New York I would say that having such a supportive team like I have over there… everyone in that team and everyone back home who isn’t here but is watching on TV thank you so much,” said Raducanu, who will shoot up from 150th to No. 24 in the world rankings on Monday.
“Most of all I would say thank you to everyone here New York thank you all for making me feel so at home from my first qualifying match all the way to the final.”
The first Grand Slam final – men or women – to be contested by two unseeded players was an improbable matchup that no one could have predicted, featuring 150th-ranked qualifier Raducanu and little-known Fernandez ranked 73rd.
One unseeded player making a major final would be considered remarkable, two enters the realm of unbelievable.
All the more remarkable was that Raducanu’s march to the title required 10 matches, including three wins in qualifying, and she did it without dropping a single set along the way. She swatted aside more experienced opponents with the same ease as she hammered winners.
Fernandez left a graveyard of seeds and champions in her trail to the final, her victims including second seeded Aryna Sabalenka, four-time Grand Slam winner and defending champion Naomi Osaka, fifth seed Elina Svitolina, and three-time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber.
For the first time during the Flushing Meadows fortnight, the 19-year-old Canadian faced a younger opponent, if only by a couple of months. But she had no answers for the icy cool Raducanu.
Both players walked out onto a frothing Arthur Ashe Stadium court with looks that suggested ‘I can’t believe I am here’ and with ear-to-ear grins but they quickly had their game faces on.
The charismatic teens had charmed the New York crowds with their fearless play and contagious enthusiasm, leaving excited fans a difficult choice over who to back in the final which in the end was evenly split.
“It was an incredibly difficult match but I thought the level was extremely high,” said Raducanu. “Leylah’s always going to play great tennis and always going to fight – that’s just the competitor she is… I think just staying in the moment, focusing on what I had to do… really helped in those tough times.”
While the scoreline might hint at a one-sided affair, the near two-hour contest featured plenty of jaw-dropping tennis and more than a dash of drama, particularly in a second set that Raducanu threatened to runaway with when at 5-2 up, she earned two match points on Fernandez’s serve.
The battling Canadian mounted a fightback to stay alive and when the Briton went out to serve for the match in the next game, Raducanu bent down so low to retrieve the ball, she ended up with blood pouring down her left leg after dragging her knee across the court surface and needed a medical time out – much to the frustration of Fernandez who had just earned a break point.
In the end, however, nothing was going to prevent Raducanu from realizing her destiny and she returned with a bandaged knee to finish off her opponent with an ace.
“I know on this day it was especially hard for New York and everyone around the United States,” said Fernandez, the match played as Americans commemorated the 20th anniversary of 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
“I just want to say that I hope I can be as strong and as resilient as New York has been the past 20 years.” – Rappler.com