British teenager Emma Raducanu showed up in New York last month with a ranking of 150th, only one grand slam appearance to her name, and a flight scheduled to take off of town after the US Open’s preliminary rounds on the off chance that she failed to win her way into the main tournament.
What’s more, there she was in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Saturday, supporting the silver trophy to finish a far-fetched — without a doubt, remarkable — and surprisingly dominant journey from qualifier to significant champion by beating Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 6-3 in the final.
“The future of women’s tennis, and just the depth of the game right now, is so great,” said the 18-year-old Raducanu, who will rise into the WTA’s top 25 this week. “I think every single player here in the women’s draw definitely has a shot of winning any tournament.”
The very first female qualifier to arrive at a grand slam final, not to mention winning one, demonstrated that determinedly. She captured 10 matches in succession at Flushing Meadows — three in qualifying, seven in the main draw — and is the first woman to win the US Open title 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 US Open and the first between two unseeded women in the professional period, which started in 1968.
“I hope to be back here in the finals and this time with a trophy — the right one,” Fernandez said as tears welled in her eyes.
Raducanu split 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. However, under tension from Fernandez, she let both of those chances getaway by putting groundstrokes into the net.
“That’s just the competitor that she is,” Raducanu said about Fernandez, whom she last looked in the second round of the Wimbledon juniors event three years prior.
Marginally various stakes in those days.
At 5-3, while serving for the match, Raducanu slid on the court pursuing a ball to her backhand side, bloodying her left knee. A trainer came out to put a white bandage on the trim and, during a deferral of over four minutes, Fernandez — a 19-year-old left-hander from Canada ranked 73rd — spoke to chair umpire Marijana Veljovic.
“I was just praying not for a double-fault, but we got through it,” said Raducanu, the youngest women’s grand slam champion since Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon at 17 in 2004. “I think just staying in the moment, focusing on what I had to do, my process, and the mindset just really help in those tough times.”
After the activity returned, Raducanu saved a couple of breakpoints, then, at that point changed over on her third opportunity to finish it off with a 174km/h expert. She dropped her racket, arrived on her back, and covered her face with two hands.
Raducanu, who was born in Toronto and moved to England with her family at age 2, is the first British woman to win a grand slam trophy since Virginia Wade at Wimbledon in 1977. Sovereign Elizabeth II sent a congratulatory note, hailing the triumph as a “remarkable achievement at such a young age.”
Fernandez, whose birthday was Monday, was asked during a pre-match interview in the hallway that leads from the locker room to the court entrance what she expected Saturday’s most prominent challenge to be. “Honestly,” she reacted, “I don’t know.”
Reasonable. Neither she nor Raducanu might have genuinely known.
Both left to boisterous applauses — Fernandez’s was somewhat more rambunctious — and wearing their equipment bags with the two lashes over their shoulders, how somebody may do with a backpack for secondary school (Raducanu recently finished her exams) or university.
Both showed the poise and shot-production of veterans at the US Open. The ability and proclivity for the enormous stage both have are unquestionable.
The last was entertaining, loaded up with extensive focuses and extended games.
One of the significant differences came toward the beginning of points because that is the place where Fernandez faltered. She put just 58% of her first serves in and got done with five double-faults, assisting Raducanu with gathering 18 breakpoints, four of which were changed over.
The group was so peaceful just previously and during points that one could hear the right-handed Raducanu’s slap of a leg while waiting to get serves or her whisper of an exhale while swinging her racket.
Also, people — excited to be back on-site after last year’s pandemic boycott, everything being equal, — got so loud after points, celebrating alongside the left-handed Fernandez’s physical trainer, who might jump out of his front-row seat when things went his player’s way.
Fernandez’s group — including two sisters and Mom yet not Dad, who remained at home in Florida, where they moved after her initial achievement in the juniors several years ago — was in the guest box allocated to the higher-ranked player. That is a status Fernandez was not used to in the competition 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.
Fernandez came in having spent more than 12-and-a-half hours on court through her six matches; Raducanu’s main-draw total was around seven-and-a-half hours.
That appeared to be a factor, especially over the second half of the 60 minutes, 51-minute final.
From 4-4 in the opening set, Raducanu took eight of the last 11 games. At the point when she broke to take that set with a very much paced, well-placed forehand winner down the line, she gazed at her escort, then, at that point whipped her arms — and the fans responded.
Raducanu’s just past grand slam competition came at Wimbledon, where she quit playing during the fourth round in a difficult situation relaxing. That was July when Raducanu was ranked outside the top 300 and an unknown.
How rapidly the entirety of that has changed.