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Emma Raducanu, 18, goes from qualifier to champion at US Open with 6-4, 6-3 victory over Leylah Fernandez
The first British woman to win a Grand Slam title since Virginia Wade in 1977, Raducanu didn't lose a single set of the 20 she played at Flushing Meadows.
Published Sep 11, 2021
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NEW YORK—From qualifier to champion: Emma Raducanu captured her first Grand Slam title at the US Open in stellar fashion over fellow teen Leylah Fernandez, 6-4, 6-3.
Following up her explosive Wimbledon breakthrough, where she reached the second week as a wild card, the 18-year-old showed remarkable poise to roll through 10 matches without losing a set as she edged past the inspired Canadian starlet, who turned 19 during the tournament, in one hour and 51 minutes on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Fernandez and Raducanu last met as juniors, facing off in a 2018 Wimbledon second round in the shadow of Centre Court. Three years later, the two took over the Flushing Meadows fortnight in their own inimitable fashion: Raducanu with ruthless efficiency and Fernandez with an indomitable spirit—aiding them through semifinal stunners over No. 17 seed Maria Sakkari and world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, respectively. It guaranteed the first all-teen US Open final since Serena Williams won her first major title, over Martina Hingis in 1999.
Much like she did against Sabalenka on Thursday, Fernandez fell behind an early break to start the contest, only to roar back and reel off three straight games. Under pressure at 0-30, Raducanu served her way out of danger and blistered numerous forehand winners to maintain a one-game advantage.
Returning at 5-4, the Brit, whose game is reminiscent of idols Simona Halep and Li Na, blasted a backhand return to secure two set points. Fernandez would save both and later a third with her signature audacity but couldn’t save a fourth: Raducanu struck a brave forehand—and her 11th winner of the set—to win her 19th straight set, stretching back to her run through qualifying.
The Fernandez serve, which held up remarkably through upsets over defending champion Naomi Osaka, former No. 1 Angelique Kerber and No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina before facing down Sabalenka, faced further pressure early in the second set. The Canadian threw in a fifth double fault to fall behind 0-40 but responded with aplomb, winning eight of the next nine points to engineer break points of her own and move ahead after a missed Raducanu backhand.
Undaunted, Raducanu recalibrated her backhand to break straight back with a winner off that wing and pulled off an impeccable forehand pass to clinch a set and 4-2 advantage.
Overpowering off the return, Fernandez bravely saved two championship points with the help of well-placed serves, putting the pressure back on Raducanu to serve out the match. An unexpected intermission followed as a scraped knee drew blood from the Brit as Fernandez earned break point.
Emerging from the medical timeout to twice out-rally Fernandez from break point down, a well-struck backhand earned Raducanu a third championship point, which she took with only her second ace.
In all, Raducanu played impressively clean tennis throughout, striking 22 winners to 25 unforced errors while winning just under half of points played off the return. While Fernandez also acquitted herself well in the biggest match of her young career, 26 unforced errors ultimately proved her undoing, overall lacking the crispness that took her into the championship match.
Ranked No. 150 at the start of qualifying, Raducanu is set to rocket into the Top 100, tentatively inside the Top 30—likely not too far ahead of Fernandez, who was ranked outside the Top 70 two weeks ago.