Updated: Oct 11, 2021
In what was already a US Open for the ages, the 18-year-old British Phenom Emma Raducanu made even more history Saturday by defeating the Canadian 19-year-old phenom Leylah Fernandez to become the first qualifier in US Open history (including both men's and women's singles) to win the title.
Raducanu won 6-4, 6-3 the very first final between unseeded women and the first final between teenagers since Serena Williams and Martina Hingis faced off in 1999. Radacanu did not only win, but she did it without dropping a set the entire tournament — that's 10 straight matches, including qualifiers. Raducanu was ferocious the first two games and capitalized on Fernandez's seven unforced errors. She had six break points in game two alone, which lasted nearly 20 points.
Fernandez looked lost through the first two games but came roaring back in amazing fashion, only to have Raducanu fight her way back from 30-0 to give herself a 3-2 lead. Fernandez would eventually tie the game 4-4 but, with the crowd roaring behind her Raducanu took control of the match and took home her first Grand Slam title of her young, promising career. Raducanu makes history by becoming the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam in just the second Grand Slam tournament of her career.
The history not only stops there for Raducanu, though. She also became the first British woman to win a Grand Slam title since Virginia Wade won Wimbledon in 1977. Wade was the last British woman to win the US Open, back in 1968. Furthermore, Raducanu is also the youngest women's tennis player to win a major since Maria Sharapova upset Serena Williams in the 2004 Wimbledon final. Raducanu’s story is stuff of legends, she just made her WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) debut at the 2021 Nottingham Open in June, where she entered the tournament as a wild card. She was ranked 150th in the world coming into the tournament and will skyrocket to 23rd in the rankings. She also is the first female player since 1990 to reach the fourth round in their first two major appearances, becoming the third outside the top 100 to reach the final- joining Kim Clijisters and the great Billie Jean King.
In her post-match interview Raducanu stated "Thank you to everyone here in New York, thank you all for making me feel so at home from my first qualifying match all the way to the final. I loved playing in front of you and you've really spurred me on in some very difficult moments.” On the other hand, Fernandez was no slouch herself as she had a historic run throughout the US Open alongside Raducanu and stated "I'm very proud of myself with the way I've played these last two weeks," Fernandez said in her post-match interview. "Especially having the crowd, the New York crowd has been amazing. Having you guys cheer me on, thank you so much, New York. Thank you."
The future of women’s tennis is very bright and Raducanu made recognition of that when she stated "I think it shows that the future of women's tennis and that the depth of the game right now is so great," Raducanu said. "I think every single player in the women's draw definitely has a shot of winning any tournament. So, I hope that the next generation can follow in some of the steps of the greatest legends, for example, Billie Jean [King] right here."
Yes, Raducanu is right, the future of women’s tennis is very bright with someone as humble and level-headed as her, referencing the great's to come before her in King, who presented her the trophy as she is at the forefront of the next wave of women’s tennis in this very moment.