Teenager Raducanu wins fairytale US Open title

  • Matt Trollope

Emma Raducanu, the 18-year-old qualifier from Great Britain, is now a Grand Slam champion after beating Leylah Fernandez for the US Open title on Saturday in New York.

In a dramatic, atmospheric match spanning almost two hours, Raducanu sealed a 6-4 6-3 win, on her third championship point, with an ace out wide.

It caps perhaps the most extraordinary title run in tennis history.

Raducanu won 10 straight matches, and 20 consecutive sets, to win by far the biggest title of her career – in just her second ever Grand Slam main draw, and only the fourth tour-level event of her nascent career.

Currently ranked No.150, she is projected to rise into the world's top 25 with her victory.

She became the second-lowest ranked US Open champion in history (after an unranked Kim Clijsters won in 2009) and the first British female major winner since Virginia Wade triumphed at Wimbledon in 1977.

Both Wade and Clijsters, as well as Billie Jean King and other members of the Original 9, and fellow Brit Tim Henman, were among the tennis legends in the crowd watching Raducanu complete her historic triumph.

How the final unfolded

Both players settled quickly into the biggest match of their respective careers, and, cheered on by a packed house at Arthur Ashe Stadium, traded impressive blows in the competitive opening stages.  

From 0-40 down in her first service game, Fernandez fended off five break points before Raducanu converted her sixth for a 2-0 lead.

Fernandez hit back in the very next game with a service break of her own – but she required four break points to pull it off.

The first three games took more than 20 minutes to complete, and when Fernandez later held to level the set at 4-4, both players had won 33 points each.

Emma Raducanu (L) and Leylah Fernandez embrace after the US Open final. This was their first professional meeting, with Raducanu winning their only other previous encounter, at junior Wimbledon in 2018. (Getty Images)

Raducanu held for 5-4 and then earned two set points with a backhand winner, both of which Fernandez erased.

The Canadian saved a third, but Raducanu brought up a fourth set point with a forcing forehand – and converted it with a winner up the line off the same stroke.

The Brit was playing beautifully, with her smooth strokes, time on the ball and greater weight of shot all proving decisive.

And it was these qualities that saw her pull away from Fernandez in the second set.

Raducanu did go down an early break but responded immediately with two backhand winners to level scores at 2-2.

And in a majestic display in the sixth game, she powered another forehand winner down the line for 15-30, and two points later, scorched a huge forehand passing shot winner to break Fernandez for a 4-2 lead.

That lead was soon 5-2, and in the eighth game, she twice arrived at championship point.

Emma Raducanu reacts after sealing the US Open women's singles title with an ace -- her 22nd winner of the match to end the contest after one hour, 51 minutes. (Getty Images)

Fernandez’s fighting qualities have been one of the defining stories of this tournament fortnight and the Canadian saved both match points, adding sting to her shots and drawing energy from the crowd as she held for 3-5.

She forced Raducanu to serve for the title, and the Brit began nervously, twice catching her ball toss before starting the first point. But she stayed calm, slotting a forehand winner to go up 30-15.

Fernandez came at her again and earned break point after taking control of a rally and yanking Raducanu across the baseline.

That retrieving effort saw Raducanu scrape her knee along the court and draw blood, requiring a three-minute medical timeout in a dramatic twist.

When play resumed, she saved that break point, and another with an overhead at full stretch, before slamming down that championship-winning ace. 

Doubles: Krawczyk & Salisbury win mixed title

Desirae Krawczyk and Joe Salisbury continued their incredible success with a 7-5 6-2 win over Giuliana Olmos and Marcelo Arevalo in the mixed doubles final earlier on Saturday.

It was their second Grand Slam mixed doubles title in 2021, after they combined to win the Roland Garros trophy in June.

The victory capped a magnificent US Open fortnight for Salisbury, who also won the men’s doubles title with Rajeev Ram.

And it marked a third straight major mixed title for Krawczyk, who won the Wimbledon crown with Neal Skupski.

Stat of the day

With that victory, Krawczyk became just the fourth woman in Open Era history to win at least three mixed doubles Grand Slam titles in a single season.

The others? Martina Hingis (2015), Martina Navratilova (1985), and Margaret Court (1969).

Wheelchair: Alcott one win from Golden Slam

Also on Friday, Dylan Alcott dominated Koji Sugeno in the quad wheelchair singles semifinals to advance to his third straight US Open final.

Alcott’s 6-2 6-1 win over the Japanese improved his 2021 win-loss record to 20-1 and puts him one victory away from a heady Golden Grand Slam.

Earlier this season, Alcott triumphed at the Australian Open, at Roland Garros and at Wimbledon, then more recently won the singles gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympics.

He faces Dutch teenager Niels Vink in Sunday’s final, the Dutch teenager who pushed Alcott to the limit in a gruelling Paralympics semifinal.

In other wheelchair results, British top seeds Alfie Hewitt and Gordon Reid captured the men’s doubles title, while Dutchwomen Diede De Groot and Aniek Van Koot, also the No.1 seeds, became the women’s doubles champions.

Tweets of the day

Raducanu and Fernandez had the tennis world enthralled with their US Open final, and the aftermath: 

Quotes of the day

“The match point, I don't think I made one serve that wide in the whole match, to be honest. I was, like, If I'm going to make it, this is going to be the time. I literally drove my legs up to that ball toss like never before. I landed it. (Then it was) just disbelief, trying to take everything in, all the moment."
- Emma Raducanu

“Right now it has sunk in. I am still disappointed. I think this loss, I'm going to carry it for a very long time. I think it will motivate me to do better in training, better for the next opportunity I get. But, no, I'm very happy with myself, with the way I competed, and the play I played, the way I acted on court the past two weeks. I've improved a lot not only tennis-wise but emotionally and mentally. Next year hopefully it will be just as good.”
- Leylah Fernandez

Day 14: Ones to watch

On the final day of the 2021 US Open, Novak Djokovic plays for tennis immortality.

Should he beat No.2 seed Daniil Medvedev in Sunday’s men’s singles final, he would become the first man since Rod Laver 52 years earlier to win the Grand Slam – and would earn a men’s record 21st major singles title in the process.

But he’s not the only player aiming for a a sweep of all four major titles in a single season.

ORDER OF PLAY: US Open Day 14

Alcott and De Groot are one win away from achieving the same feat in their respective wheelchair singles finals, and given both were Paralympic champions, they are both on the brink of an extraordinary Golden Grand Slam.

Also capturing plenty of interest is the women’s doubles final, with teenagers Coco Gauff and Caty McNally looking to end the 10-match winning streak of Sam Stosur and Zhang Shuai, the Australian Open 2019 champions.

Stosur, exactly 20 years older than Gauff, is seeking a another triumph in New York a decade on from her US Open singles title.