The 18-year-old beat Leylah Fernandez to win the US Open crown.
British player Emma Raducanu beat Canadian Leylah Fernandez 6-4 6-3 to win the all-teen US Open Women’s Singles Final.
Played on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, today’s final also marked the first time a qualifier has reached and won a tennis major. All in all, Raducanu won 10 matches to be able to lift the trophy. She also becomes the first British woman in 53 years to win the US Open, since Virginia Wade in 1968.
The two Gen Z finalists’ profiles have many similarities on paper. Both born in 2002, a year after the tragedy that befell New York’s Twin Towers, the two finalists started playing tennis at 5 years old.
The two also belong to a multiracial household: Raducanu has a Romanian dad and Chinese mom while Fernandez’s father is Ecuadorian and mother is Filipino-Canadian.
While calm and well-spoken in their interviews, both also seem to relish playing on the big stages, and play with a lot of heart and self-belief. And It has been enthralling to watch in these past two weeks.
While Raducanu and Fernandez share many traits between them, their US Open paths were different. The former practically plowed through her competition having not dropped a set through three qualifying matches, and six main draw opponents before the final. She similarly did not relent a set in her match against her Canadian opponent.
By contrast, the latter’s progress through the draw seemed to grow in difficulty after every round.
Every match Fernandez played going into the final since her third round upset of defending champion Naomi Osaka has gone the distance, from three-time major champion Angelique Kerber to current world number five Elena Svitolina to second seed Aryna Sabalenka in the semis.
With the crowd behind her, she managed to hit steely, magnificent shots throughout the tournament, confounding her more experienced and accomplished opponents in her side of the draw.
Unfortunately, the Canadian could not produce the same magic that got her into the title match.
The two usually nervy finalists played nervous through the early games, with Raducanu becoming increasingly settled as the match progressed. Fernandez, meanwhile, never got her gritty defense game going, hitting errors into the net, shots wide, and five double faults.
A brief rally near the end of the second set gave some hope for the Canadian’s fans, but, after a medical timeout by the Brit, it was quickly over. After squandering several championship points, the 18-year-old served an ace out wide that the 19-year-old didn’t read and return.
Raducanu then crumpled into the court crying, overcome with the enormity of her accomplishment. With her win, Raducanu becomes the youngest grandslam champion since Maria Sharapova’s triumph over Williams at Wimbledon in 2004.
Before Saturday’s match between the Brit and Canadian, the last time we had a major final this young was also worth noting. In the 1999 US Open, then 17-year-old Serena Williams outplayed 18-year-old Martina Hingis for her first grand slam win. Williams, of course, won 22 more after that, the most in the Open Era.
Raducanu’s dominant performance in New York is akin to many of the American’s major runs. We also suspect (or at least hope) that Fernandez won’t be going away after her substantial gains here, and will only grow as a player. And with many more hungry, young players coming up and doing well in this tournament alone, this bodes well for tennis’ horizon after COVID.
That is to say, the kids are all right—maybe the future is too.
Banner Photo from @usopen on Twitter