US Open 2021 women’s final: Emma Raducanu wins the first Grand Slam of her career on a magical journey to the final as a qualification
In the first US Open final between two unranked players, 18-year-old Emma Raducanu won her first Grand Slam championship by beating 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3. Raducanu became the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam, also doing so in the second Grand Slam tournament of her career.
With this victory, Raducanu became the first British woman to win a Grand Slam title since Virginia Wade won Wimbledon in 1977. Wade was also the last British woman to win the US Open, in 1968. Additionally, Raducanu is also the youngest in women’s tennis. player to win a major tournament since Maria Sharapova defeated Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final in 2004.
Not just a few months ago, Raducanu made her Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) main draw debut at the 2021 Nottingham Open in June, where she entered the tournament as a wild card. Later that month, she made her Grand Slam debut at the main draw at Wimbledon, again as a wild card. Raducanu reached the fourth round at Wimbledon, becoming the youngest Briton to reach the last 16 in the Open Era. The 2021 US Open was only her second career Grand Slam, and she had never played in the top 40 before competing in New York. On Monday, Raducanu will drop from No.150 to No.23 in the WTA rankings.
“Thanks to everyone here in New York,” Raducanu said in his post-game interview. “Thank you everyone for making me feel at home from my first qualifying game until the final. I loved playing in front of you and you really cheered me on in some very difficult times.”
If winning a Grand Slam tournament as a qualifier wasn’t impressive enough, Raducanu did so, dominatingly, never having lost a set en route to victory. Raducanu is the first player to win the US Open without losing a set since Serena Williams in 2014. Raducanu has played 14 sets in this tournament and won all of them. If you include her three qualifiers where she won six sets, that’s 20 straight wins.
Often in tennis, the quality of the match is not determined by the final score line. Despite Raducanu’s straight-set victory, Fernandez put on an incredible display of tennis, especially for a 19-year-old competing for the first time on the big New York stage. For the young pair, the final mirrored each of their US Open tournaments with Fernandez fighting from behind, able to adapt accordingly in real time and Raducanu clinging to control of the match, keeping his composure and its precision with every stroke.
“I’m very proud of myself with the way I’ve played over the past two weeks,” Fernandez said in his post-game interview. “Especially having the crowd, the crowd in New York was amazing. You cheering me on, thank you very much, New York. Thank you.”
For Fernandez in particular, since she appeared in so many of her games as an underdog, the New York crowd was drawn to her throughout her games and she quickly became a fan favorite. Spectators appreciated her courage and determination on her way to the final, which included her shocking upsets against three of the top five players in thrilling three sets. The teenager developed a signature celebratory action of raising her fist in the air after winning a point, which became a move that pumped the New York crowd even more. In the final on Saturday, there were even fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium sporting “Leylah” and Canadian-inspired clothing and signage.
Billie Jean King, 12-time Grand Slam winner and long-time advocate for gender equality, presented Raducanu with the 2021 US Open trophy in a handover between past and present generations of women’s tennis .
“I think it shows the future of women’s tennis and the depth of the game right now is so great,” Raducanu said. “I think every player in the women’s draw definitely has a chance to win any tournament. So hopefully the next generation can take some of the steps of the biggest legends, eg Billie Jean [King] here.”
Once again, another Grand Slam women’s singles tournament has highlighted the depth of women’s tennis at the moment. In 2021, there was a different champion in each of the four majors; Naomi Osaka at the Australian Open, Barbora Krejčíková at the French Open, Ash Barty at Wimbledon and now Raducanu at the US Open. The future of women’s tennis is bright and it appears to remain competitive as many talented players on the tour are hungrier than ever and seek to win their first Grand Slam title.
Road to the final
R1: def. Ana Konjuh, 7-6 (7-3), 6-2
R2: def. Kaia Kanepi, 7-5, 7-5
R3: def. No. 3 Naomi Osaka, 5-7, 7-6 (7-2), 6-4
R4: def. No.16 Angelique Kerber, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2
QF: def. No.5 Elina Svitolina, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5)
SF: def. No.2 Aryna Sabalenka, 7-6 (7-3), 4-6, 6-4
R1: def. Stefanie Vögele, 6-2, 6-3
R2: def. Zhang Shuai, 6-2, 6-4
R3: def. Sara Sorribes Tormo, 6-0, 6-1
R4: def. Shelby Rogers, 6-2, 6-1
QF: def. No. 11 Belinda Bencic, 6-3, 6-4
SF: def. No.17 Maria Sakkari, 6-1, 6-4
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