British teenager Emma Raducanu went from qualifier to champion at U.S. Open Tennis in just her second appearance at a Grand Slam tournament.
Raducanu beat Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 6-3 in the final at Flushing Meadows on Saturday to become the first player to go preliminary qualifying rounds all the way to a major title in the professional era.
The 18-year-old Raducanu, who is ranked 150th, wound up winning all 20 sets she played in New York — six in qualifying, 14 in the main draw — and is the first woman to win the singles championship without dropping a set since Serena Williams in 2014.
This was the first major final between two teens since Williams, 17, beat Martina Hingis, 18, at the 1999 U.S. Open and the first between two unseeded women.
Raducanu broke to go up 4-2 in the second set, held for 5-2, and twice was a point from winning the title in the next game. But she let both of those opportunities slip away by putting groundstrokes into the net.
Then at 5-3, while Raducanu was serving for the match. She slid on the court chasing a ball to her backhand side, bloodying her left knee.
A trainer came out to put a white bandage on the cut and, a delay of more than four minutes. Fernandez — a 19-year-old left-hander from Canada ranked 73rd — spoke to chair umpire Marijana Veljovic.
When they resumed, Raducanu saved a pair of breakpoints, then converted on her third chance to close it, ending with a 108 mph pace. She dropped her racket, landed on her back, and covered her face with both hands.
Raducanu is the first British woman to win a Grand Slam trophy since Virginia Wade at Wimbledon in 1977.
She is also the youngest player to claim a women’s major title since Maria Sharapova was 17 at Wimbledon in 2004.
Fernandez was asked during a brief pre-match interview in the hallway that leads from the locker room to the court entrance what she expected Saturday’s greatest challenge to be.
“Honestly,” she responded, “I don’t know.”
They both have played like veterans over these weeks in Flushing Meadows, with the poise and shot-making of veterans. The final was entertaining and, for the most part, even, filled with lengthy points and lengthy games. The talent and affinity for the big stage both possess are unmistakable.
Took 28 minutes for merely four games, with a break and a hold apiece making it 2-all. Both blew chances at times. At others, both came up with the goods, producing on-the-run baseline excellence.
The second set’s initial four games unfolded in the same manner — 2-all after a break and a hold apiece.
The crowd was so quiet right before and during points that one could hear the right-handed Raducanu’s slap of a leg while waiting to receive serves or her whisper of an exhale while swinging her racket.
Fernandez’s group was in the guest box assigned to the higher-ranked player. That’s a status Fernandez was unaccustomed to in the tournament as she beat four straight seeded women, each in three sets: defending champion Naomi Osaka and 2016 champ Angelique Kerber, No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, and No. 5 Elina Svitolina.
So Fernandez came in having spent more than 12.5 hours on court through her six matches; Raducanu’s total was a tad more than 7.5 hours in the main draw. That seemed to be a factor.
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