US Open: Fairytale final proves women's tennis has bright future as Raducanu triumphs

By Sports Desk September 11, 2021

Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez had the biggest moments of their careers – their lives, surely – coming up in a matter of moments, but both of the teenage sensations seemed calm and collected as they fulfilled some final media duties prior to heading out onto court at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

"I can't wait to get stuck in," said Raducanu, the first qualifier in history to reach a grand slam final. "I think we're just going to go out there and have fun," said Fernandez, vanquisher of US Open champions past over the course of the last two weeks.

Those questions were preceded by a commemoration of an event that occurred in New York 20 years ago to the day, the players waiting in the tunnel as tributes were paid to the lives lost on September 11, 2001, when the towers fell and the world changed.

Neither Fernandez nor Raducanu were born. Indeed, the latter does not turn 19 until November, and her opponent celebrated her 19th on Monday, a day before beating Elina Svitolina in the quarter-finals.

Whether down to youthful exuberance, or the fearlessness that inexperience can bring, both players – who last met in the second round of the juniors at Wimbledon in 2018 – lived up to their promises in the pre-match interviews, to the benefit of an audience that can only have been glued to whatever screen they watched on, not to mention the 23,000-strong crowd in attendance at Flushing Meadows.

It was a final that could have gone either way, yet ultimately in the moments it really mattered most, it was Raducanu who came out on top, a 6-4 6-3 victory sealing one of the most unlikely successes of all time.

The tone was set immediately in the first women's slam final between two unseeded players. Raducanu applying pressure and breaking serve to edge ahead.

But Fernandez has had to battle back against the odds throughout her incredible run, beating defending champion Naomi Osaka, former world number one Angelique Kerber and current number two Aryna Sabalenka. The scores were level two games later.

Raducanu had not dropped a set throughout her run, but at 30-0 down in the fifth game, it appeared to be swinging in Fernandez's favour. Four straight points from the Briton ensured that was not the case.

Special tennis was on show. Quality, control and poise worthy of players way beyond their years. After an hour, something had to give, and it was Raducanu who, at the fourth time of asking, broke serve to seal the set.

What did Fernandez have left? Was this the beginning of the end for the youngest player to beat more than one top-five opponent at the same slam since Serena Williams saw off Monica Seles, Lindsay Devenport and Martina Hingis in 1999?

Yet Raducanu found herself 2-1 and a break down three games into set two.

Fernandez could not capitalise and Raducanu returned from an 82 mile-an-hour serve to get back on the front foot. An exquisite forehand winner saw her break for 4-2.

Raducanu's Wimbledon came to an end in tears at the fourth-round stage. When she moved to within a game of grand slam immortality, there was hardly a flicker of emotion.

Fernandez said she was out to have fun, though, and a smile was back on her face as two championship points went begging for Raducanu, who then skidded across the baseline, cutting open her knee in the process.

A medical time out was required and Fernandez's joy turned to frustration. It might have been crucial, Raducanu saving two break points before an outstanding ace secured her place in history.

Ten matches, no sets dropped – Williams was the last player, in 2014, to win the US Open without dropping a set. Raducanu is also now the first woman to win a title so early in her slam career, in just her second major appearance. 

Nine years and one day since Andy Murray won his first major on the same court, a new British hero emerged.

Virginia Wade, the last British woman to reach the Flushing Meadows final in the Open Era and the 1968 champion, watched on as the iconic Billie Jean King handed the trophy over to a superstar in the making.

Big names were absent from Flushing Meadows this year, but Raducanu and Fernandez served up a final, and a result, for the ages.

Related items

  • Ballon d'Or: Ancelotti congratulates Messi and tips Benzema for future success Ballon d'Or: Ancelotti congratulates Messi and tips Benzema for future success

    Karim Benzema will be extra motivated to win the 2022 Ballon d'Or after finishing fourth in this year's voting, according to Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti.

    The 33-year-old has scored 34 goals for Madrid this calendar year and was recalled to the France squad in May after a six-year exile.

    Benzema's combined 46 goals and assists in 2021 has been bettered only by Erling Haaland (48), Kylian Mbappe (51) and Robert Lewandowski (59) from Europe's top five leagues when taking all club competitions into account.

    The Madrid striker finished behind Euro 2020 winner Jorginho, Lewandowski and record seven-time winner Lionel Messi at Monday's Ballon d'Or ceremony, with N'Golo Kante completing the top five.

    Benzema's Madrid team-mate Toni Kroos has argued the Frenchman did more than Paris Saint-Germain star Messi this year to win the award.

    But Ancelotti accepts the decision, determined by journalists from across the world, and insists Benzema will not be fazed by finishing outside the top three.

    "We have to give fair value to the classification," he said at a news conference previewing Wednesday's LaLiga contest with Athletic Bilbao.

    "Messi has won and we must congratulate him. The individual awards are important but if they do not win it is not a catastrophe. I hope next year a Madrid player will win it.

    "Benzema has had a great season and finished fourth. He will continue to be motivated to try to be first next time.

    "If I had a vote, I would not choose any player outside of my own team. I'd have voted Benzema first, Vinicius [Junior] second, [Thibaut] Courtois third, Casemiro fourth.

    "But you have to respect and congratulate Messi on winning."

    Madrid-linked forward Kylian Mbappe finished ninth, but Ancelotti does not believe leaving Paris Saint-Germain will necessarily enhance his chances of winning the coveted crown.

    "Playing for a great club can help you, but it is still an individual prize," Ancelotti said when asked specifically about Mbappe.

    "These players will not cry because they have not won the award. The likes of Benzema and Courtois will accept it without a problem."

    Benzema and Vinicius are in contention to start Wednesday's clash with Athletic as Madrid aim to make it five league wins in a row and maintain a four-point lead at the top.

    Madrid are unbeaten in their last 12 LaLiga games against Athletic (W8 D4), one short of their best unbeaten run against the Basque club in the top flight.

    Ancelotti, who has lost only one of his four LaLiga games against Athletic, is prepared to make changes to Madrid's line-up three days on from their 2-1 win against Sevilla.

    "It's an evaluation I make every day," he said. "The dynamics of the team right now are very good. I won't rotate for the sake of it, but if we have any risks then of course we will do it.

    "We are facing a well organised team at the back. Marcelino trains all his teams very well, especially in a defensive sense.

    "This game will demand a lot from us and we need some offensive clarity. They are also a team that attacks vertically, so we must show good balance."

    Despite having to contend with injury problems and a congested schedule, Ancelotti reiterated Madrid are not likely to bring in any new players in January.

    "You have the summer to improve the squad," he said. "I don't like using January to adjust as that means something must have gone wrong in the summer.

    "If players are not happy then we'll think about it, but we are not looking to sign. The squad is fine and will compete until the end."

  • Klopp backs Van Dijk as Liverpool defensive leader returns to scene of Goodison agony Klopp backs Van Dijk as Liverpool defensive leader returns to scene of Goodison agony

    Jurgen Klopp backed Virgil van Dijk to power through his return to Goodison Park with Liverpool but believes the Dutchman will have his emotions stirred.

    Last season's Merseyside derby at Everton saw Van Dijk clattered early on by Jordan Pickford and hobble out of the game, suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury that ended his season in October.

    The Dutch defender was sorely missed as Liverpool's Premier League title defence collapsed amid a drastic set of injuries that left Klopp struggling to piece together a backline at times.

    Now he has Van Dijk back and close to as good as ever, with Liverpool in great shape as they prepare to face Everton, who are under the instruction of former Reds boss Rafael Benitez.

    When asked about Van Dijk ahead of Wednesday's tussle with their struggling neighbours, Klopp suggested it would be naive to expect no reaction.

    "We're all human beings, so it's probably difficult to ignore something like that," Klopp said.

    "It was a situation that should not happen in football and doesn't happen very often. I can't remember one since then in any other game.

    "Virgil is very experienced, and he has these situations constantly since he's been back where he's in challenges and has to be completely free of all things he could have in his mind because of one issue in his past.

    "So slightly more different [against Everton] because it's in the same place, but apart from that it's just a football game again."

    Van Dijk has been an ever-present for Liverpool in their 13 Premier League games so far this season, and in that time he has been dribbled past only once by an opponent. No defender with 10 or more appearances has bettered that, and Klopp has been reassured by his increasingly imposing form.

    "He came back brilliant. People are really quick if something's not exactly like it was before to say 'he's not the same anymore' and stuff like this, and this is of course not right," Klopp said. "These kind of judgements make absolutely no sense because everybody needs time to get back.

    "He had a full pre-season which is absolutely helpful. His comeback was absolutely brilliant since he came back, it's been really good.

    "If some things are not exactly as they have been, it's only a matter of time because of his quality, there's no doubt about that."

    The Liverpool manager said his team would need "a cool head" for the likely raucous atmosphere awaiting them.

    "We are still an emotional team, but you have to use the emotion in the right way and that's the plan for tomorrow absolutely," Klopp said.

    Everton won 2-0 at Anfield in their last Premier League game against Liverpool, ending a 20-game winless run against them in the competition. Wednesday's hosts have not won back-to-back league Merseyside derbies since beating Liverpool in both meetings in the 1984-85 campaign, with Everton then on their way to winning the First Division title.

    Eight of the last nine Premier League derbies at Everton have finished level, including each of the last four in a row.

    Liverpool can break a long-standing record on Wednesday, which is one of numerous incentives. Klopp's team have scored at least twice in each of their last 17 games in all competitions, the joint-longest such run in history by an English top-flight side, level with Sunderland in 1927.

    Benitez will be out to prevent that happening, but his Everton side are in free-fall having lost five of their last six games.

    Former Liverpool managers have lost 13 of their last 14 Premier League games against the Reds, with Brendan Rodgers' Leicester City the exception, winning 3-1 in February, with Van Dijk by then on the injured list.

    Klopp does not entertain the theory that form goes out of the window for a derby.

    "I think previous form matters," he said. "Especially when it's good."

  • Carrick to lead Man Utd against Arsenal as Rangnick waits on work visa Carrick to lead Man Utd against Arsenal as Rangnick waits on work visa

    Manchester United will again be led by caretaker boss Michael Carrick in Thursday's game against Arsenal as the club wait for Ralf Rangnick to receive a work visa.

    It means Carrick will be in charge for a third successive game, having already led the team to a 2-0 win at Villarreal in the Champions League and a 1-1 draw away to Premier League leaders Chelsea.

    United's hopes of upgrading from caretaker Carrick to interim boss Rangnick in time for the Old Trafford clash with the Gunners have been hit by red tape.

    As the team went through their preparations for the game at the Carrington training base, Carrick told United's players he would be giving out the orders once more.

    In a statement on their official website, United said: "Ralf Rangnick was announced as interim manager on Monday but, while the club follows the regulatory process around a work visa, Carrick will continue at the helm.

    "Michael has communicated this to players and staff at Carrington in a busy week for the club."

    United announced on Monday an agreement had been reached with Rangnick over a relationship that is set to span two and a half years.

    Initially, Rangnick will take charge until the end of the season before moving into a consultancy role.

    Rangnick has previously shaped German clubs such as Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig from top to bottom, with his future advisory position at Old Trafford suggesting United are planning an overhaul of their football operations, which have long appeared outdated compared to their rivals.

    He has been working most recently at Lokomotiv Moscow, but the 63-year-old is now set to step into the highest-profile position of his career.

    Carrick has been at the helm since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's dismissal on November 21, which followed a dismal run of form that saw United lose five of seven Premier League games.

    They sit eighth in the table, five points behind fifth-placed Arsenal, having won just five of 13 domestic league games this season and with a goal difference of minus one.

    United are at home again on Sunday when they host Crystal Palace, seemingly a more realistic target for Rangnick's first game.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.