WATCH: You Should Know—Emma Raducanu at the US Open

Advertising

This US Open has been suffused with a spirit of rebirth and renewal, so it seems fitting that on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, two players who hadn’t yet been born on the day of that event would be contesting the women’s final.

If you like fresh faces and clean slates in sports—and really, who doesn’t?—Fernandez vs. Raducanu is the Grand Slam final for you. As recently as two weeks ago, few people in New York had ever heard either of their names. After losing in the final of a small tournament in Chicago to Clara Tauson, the 150th-ranked Raducanu started in the qualifying event at Flushing Meadows. Fernandez, meanwhile, came to the Open having lost in the first round at her last three tournaments. At her home event in Canada, she lost to 121st-ranked Harriet Dart in straight sets.

Since then, the 18-year-old Raducanu and the 19-year-old Fernandez have been unbeatable. Together, they’ve turned a US Open that was already brimming with energy into something magical. It’s as if the return of fans to Flushing necessitated a complete break with the past in tennis, at least for two weeks.

Raducanu, practicing the day before her improbable appearance in the US Open final.

Raducanu, practicing the day before her improbable appearance in the US Open final.

We’ve seen a number of stunning Slam runs on the women’s side in recent years; by now they’re almost the norm. Since 2017, Jelena Ostapenko, Sloane Stephens, Bianca Andreescu, Sofia Kenin, Iga Swiatek and Barbora Krejcikova have all shocked the world by winning their first majors.

So far, none of them have followed up with a second. Which means we should enjoy Raducanu-Fernandez while it’s happening, and not worry yet about what’s in store for them in the future. That said, both have looked exceptionally good in New York.

Fernandez plays an exciting, baseline-hugging brand of on-the-rise tennis, while Raducanu seems to have found a perfect balance of aggression and margin, offense and defense. Fernandez has conquered the tougher competition, including No. 3 Naomi Osaka, No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, No. 5 Elina Svitolina and former No. 1 Angelique Kerber. Raducanu, meanwhile, has played just two seeds, No. 11 Belinda Bencic and No. 17 Maria Sakkari, but she has won all nine of her matches (including three in qualifying) in utterly routine straight-set fashion.

These two have never played, and neither has played a match on this type of stage, so we don’t know how either of them will react, or how they’ll match up. Fernandez has been amazing in clutch moments against her more experienced opponents. But Raducanu plays with a little more margin, and her game looks a little more repeatable under varying degrees of tension. In the spirit of youth and renewal these two have brought to tennis, I’ll pick the younger one.

Winner: Raducanu