US Open: History in the making as Raducanu and Fernandez battle in all-teenage New York final

By Sports Desk September 10, 2021

Leylah Fernandez and Emma Raducanu have taken New York by storm: Saturday's US Open final is one that nobody would have predicted and nobody should miss.

The teenagers from Montreal and London are ranked at 73 and 150 by the WTA, which runs the women's tour, and have sent a clutch of household names scuttling for the Flushing Meadows exits.

In the absence of the familiar formidable presence of Serena Williams, this remarkable duo have taken the grand slam by the scruff of the neck and made it their own, thrilling crowds with their bravura.

Ahead of their clash in Saturday's final, where a life-changing title is up for grabs, Stats Perform looks at how Fernandez and Raducanu have come so far, and the feats left for them still to achieve in the Big Apple.

 

RADUCANU ON A ROLL, MAKING HER FIRST MILLION

It was no secret in British tennis circles that Raducanu was a bright talent, but she prioritised her studies ahead of going on tour and this year's Wimbledon marked her first senior grand slam main-draw appearance. Precocious potential often goes unfulfilled, but Raducanu proved she had the game as well as the wit to handle the big stage as she powered through to the fourth round at the All England Club.

She still had not climbed far enough in the rankings to earn an automatic place in the US Open, so won three qualifying rounds to earn her place. Astonishingly, she has since lost just 27 games in six main-draw matches and has not dropped a set. Serena Williams was the last player to win this title without losing a set, losing 32 games in her 2014 campaign.

The 18-year-old is the first qualifier in tennis history to reach a grand slam final, and just the second woman to reach a final after fewer than three appearances in the majors, after Pam Shriver at the 1978 US Open, her second slam. Shriver lost in her final to Chris Evert, so Raducanu can set a women's tour record for winning a title at the earliest point of a grand slam career, in those terms.

Raducanu is the second Briton to reach the women's final in New York in the Open Era, after 1968 champion Virginia Wade, who has been in the New York crowd this week.

The youngster's career prize money stood at $303,376 before this tournament, and she will become a tennis millionaire whatever the result of the final. The winner takes away $2.5million and the runner-up collects $1.25million.

Previously coached by Andy Murray's father-in-law Nigel Sears, Raducanu has been working under the guidance of former British tennis player Andrew Richardson in recent months, and this run has made her the youngest women's grand slam finalist since a 17-year-old Maria Sharapova took the title at Wimbledon in 2004.

At the US Open, she has become the youngest player to reach the title match since 1999, when a 17-year-old Serena Williams beat Martina Hingis to land the first of 23 singles slams to date.

She is the lowest-ranked player to reach a women's US Open final, besides Kim Clijsters who was a former number one but unranked after coming out of a short-lived retirement to triumph at the 2009 tournament.

FERNANDEZ FLOORS THE STARS, BUT CAN SHE RATTLE RADUCANU?

While Raducanu can count Olympic champion Belinda Bencic among her victims, it has been Fernandez who has been the real giant-killer over this fortnight.

Since making an unassuming start with wins over Ana Konjuh and Kaia Kanepi to reach round three, Fernandez's run has gone into overdrive.

Sinking defending champion Naomi Osaka marked the kick-starting of one of the great charges through a draw, as the Japanese star became the first of three top-five stars to lose to the youngster, Elina Svitolina and Aryna Sabalenka being the others.

Fernandez, who turned 19 on Monday, overcame former US Open winner Angelique Kerber, too, and each of those four wins from the third round on has been epic, going to three sets each time and chock-full of tension.

She has become the youngest player to beat more than one player from the top five at the same slam since Serena Williams saw off Monica Seles, Lindsay Davenport and Hingis from the quarter-finals onwards at the 1999 US Open.

What does she have left? And can Fernandez overcome a dismal record against British players? Remarkably she has a 1-6 record at all levels against British opponents, according to the WTA, and only last month she was beaten by Harriet Dart in Montreal.

This will be the first women's grand slam final between two unseeded players. There have only ever been 21 unseeded women's finalists and seven at the US Open, and if one or both of them freezes in the spotlight it would be excusable, but that prospect appears unlikely given their shared brio and sense of belonging at this level.

Fernandez has been a masterful conductor of the crowd, and has become the third Canadian woman to reach a slam final, after Eugenie Bouchard at Wimbledon in 2014 and Bianca Andreescu at the US Open two years ago. Bouchard was runner-up to Petra Kvitova, while Andreescu beat Serena Williams.

Like Raducanu, her career earnings will be transformed whatever the outcome of the trophy match, with Fernandez having banked $786,772 before this spellbinding run.

RISE OF THE TEENAGER

This will be the fourth US Open women's final in the Open Era to be contest by two teenagers, following on from Steffi Graf's win over Gabriela Sabatini in 1988, which sealed a calendar Grand Slam, the victory by Hingis over Venus Williams in 1997, and Serena's win against Hingis two years later.

Although Raducanu and Fernandez are young, they are put in the shade somewhat by the fact a 16-year-old Hingis played a 17-year-old Venus in that 1997 final.

Overall, it will be the ninth Open Era women's final between two teenagers at the majors, and whoever wins will be the youngest champion since Sharapova's Wimbledon triumph.

NATIONAL PRIDE

Raducanu has come from almost nowhere to become British number one, which will be confirmed in the new WTA rankings next week. Should she win the title, she will move to 24 on the global list, and a defeat would mean she sits at number 32, while Fernandez will be 19th if she carries off the trophy and number 27 should she fall short.

The title would make Fernandez Canada's number one, leapfrogging Andreescu.

At around 16:00 in New York on Saturday, two teenagers will step on court, likely to the wild acclaim they richly deserve. Both might have been able to walk the grounds unnoticed a fortnight ago, but Raducanu and Fernandez are globally recognised now.

At a tournament that has been missing a galaxy of stars – the Williams sisters, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to name but four, and we should probably get used to that – these flamboyant greenhorns have shown tennis might just have a future as thrilling as its immediate present.

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    Emma Raducanu produced a brilliant comeback to stun France’s Caroline Garcia and draw Great Britain level at 1-1 in the Billie Jean King Cup qualifier in Le Portel.

    Britain were staring at a 2-0 deficit and almost certain defeat when Raducanu trailed in-form world number 23 Garcia by a set and 2-0 after Katie Boulter had been thumped 6-2 6-0 by Diane Parry.

    But Raducanu, back in the team for the first time in two years after injury, showed once again what makes her a hugely special talent by fighting back to claim a 3-6 6-3 6-2 victory for her first top-30 win on clay.

    Speaking on the BBC, the former US Open champion said: “I was completely the underdog, especially going out here in her house, on clay. I definitely turned it around. I fought really hard, I dug in.

    “That was a really good test for myself because I hadn’t had those level matches very often. I’m very pleased with my performance and I’m very, very happy to bring this point home for the team and go into tomorrow 1-1.”

    The 21-year-old is inexperienced on clay but said again ahead of the tie that she feels it could be a good surface for her, and this was her best victory for more than a year.

    The power of Garcia, who recently defeated Coco Gauff and Naomi Osaka at the Miami Open, helped her edge a high-quality opening set, and the 30-year-old looked in control when she broke serve again to start the second.

    But Raducanu, who beat Garcia in Indian Wells in 2022 before losing to her at Wimbledon, met fire with fire, dialling up the aggression on her forehand in particular and turned the momentum around with a run of five games in a row.

    She had to show her gritty side when Garcia threatened a comeback of her own but the Frenchwoman appeared on the verge of tears during the deciding set as Raducanu kept her foot on the gas.

    The Kent player, ranked 302, saw the funny side after she celebrated a game short of victory at 5-1, but she kept her head impressively and looked delighted when a final volley earned her the spoils.

    “It was quite embarrassing,” said Raducanu of her mistake. “All I was thinking was, ‘If I lose this right now, I’m going to look like a right muppet’. I’m very happy that I managed to pull it through.”

    Earlier, Boulter’s inexperience on clay showed as she lost 12 games in a row against fast-rising 21-year-old Parry.

    Boulter has had an exceptional season so far but this was only the 17th match of her career on clay and her first at tour level.

    The British number one, ranked 28, told reporters: “I have to get better on the clay. It’s such a learning experience and it’s a really good learning experience for me.

    “I know my base level is there and that I can play some really good stuff. Practice has been awesome. The scoreline was tough but I felt it was a lot closer than it seemed.”

    Both captains must decide whether to make changes for Saturday, with Boulter scheduled to take on Garcia first up before Raducanu faces Parry.

    Three wins are needed to clinch a place in November’s Billie Jean King Cup Finals in Seville, and France would be strong favourites if it came down to a deciding doubles.

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    Fourth seed Daniil Medvedev was beaten 6-3 7-5 by Karen Khachanov to end a rocky week in Monaco a day on from being asked by an umpire not to shout at a line judge.

    Khachanov’s reward is a quarter-final against Stefanos Tsitsipas, the Greek having overcome Alexander Zverev 7-5 7-5 (3).

    Second seed Jannik Sinner cruised through with a 6-4 6-2 over Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff.

    That sets up a quarter-final tie with Holger Rune, who came through both his round of 32 and round of 16 games on Thursday across six sets.

    Firstly, he beat qualifier Sumit Nagal 6-3 3-6 6-2 before moving on to a three-and-a-half-hour clash with Grigor Dimitrov which he eventually won 7-6 (9) 3-6 7-6 (2).

    Friday’s upcoming schedule was completed as Casper Ruud beat Hubert Hurkacz 6-4 6-2 and will meet Ugo Humbert who recovered from a set down to beat Lorenzo Sonego 7-5 6-3 6-1.

  • Emma Raducanu faces Caroline Garcia on return to Billie Jean King Cup Emma Raducanu faces Caroline Garcia on return to Billie Jean King Cup

    Emma Raducanu will take on Caroline Garcia on Friday in her first match for Great Britain in two years.

    The former US Open champion is available to Britain’s Billie Jean King Cup captain Anne Keothavong for the tie against France for the first time since making her debut in April 2022.

    On that occasion, Raducanu won her first senior match on clay against Tereza Martincova of the Czech Republic before losing heavily to Marketa Vondrousova in a tie Britain ultimately lost 3-2.

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    They are back on clay just across the Channel in Le Portel on Friday and Saturday, and Keothavong is likely to need Raducanu to win at least one match if Britain are to spring a surprise and reach the Billie Jean King Cup Finals in November.

    Having pulled out of the Miami Open last month with a minor back issue, Raducanu will play her first match since an encouraging showing in Indian Wells ended in a competitive third-round loss to Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka.

    She has met world number 23 Garcia twice before, beating her in Indian Wells in 2022 then losing at Wimbledon in the same year, but this will be their first match on clay.

    Raducanu has played only one match on the surface in nearly two years, and she told reporters in France: “I’ve not spent so much time on clay over the past few years.

    “It was interesting at the beginning but I think I learned pretty quickly. I’m starting to feel a lot better on the surface. I think in the future it’s going to be a surface that actually suits me. I’m maybe a little bit away from that right now but I’m enjoying it and I’m enjoying the challenge.

    “I think it’s great that we can be in this position playing the French, who are so dominant. Coming on clay I definitely think we’re the underdogs but we have a lot of game and we’re ready to play this weekend.”

    The British number one is Katie Boulter, who has surged into the top 30 this year having been ranked well outside the top 100 12 months ago when Britain lost to the same opponents on hard courts in Coventry.

    She will take on up-and-coming 21-year-old Diane Parry in the opening match on Friday in what will be just Boulter’s third match on clay since April 2021.

    The reverse singles will take place on Saturday and, if necessary, the tie will conclude with a deciding doubles, for which Keothavong has selected Harriet Dart and Heather Watson, although changes can be made.

    The GB captain was keen to play up Britain’s status as underdogs, saying: “We’re here on French turf. The French have the home support, they have the experience in this team, they’ve had a lot of success in this competition.

    “But I’m confident and I back my players. It’s a great opportunity. We’ve prepared as well as we could have and I’m looking forward to the matches tomorrow.”

    Elsewhere in the qualifiers, Naomi Osaka is playing in the competition for the first time since 2020 in Japan’s tie with Kazakhstan while world number one Iga Swiatek leads Poland against Switzerland.

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