Raducanu completes fairytale major win
First qualifier to win a Grand Slam in the Open Era
NEW YORK: Britain's Emma Raducanu completed a Grand Slam fairytale on Saturday, defeating Canadian Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 6-3 in a battle of the teens to win the U.S. Open.
It was a blood, sweat, and tears victory for the 18-year-old, who became the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam title and the first British woman to lift a major trophy since Virginia Wade, who was watching from the courtside, won at Wimbledon in 1977.
Wade has been cheering from courtside seats in New York, while an adoring Britain gathered around televisions and held its collective breath on Saturday as the teenager played out a Hollywood ending on an improbable script.
Raducanu's victory received royal approval, with Queen Elizabeth and other members of the royal family congratulating her on Twitter.
"It's an absolute dream," beamed Raducanu, who will shoot up from 150th to number 23 in the world rankings on Monday. "I've always dreamed of winning a Grand Slam. You simply say these things.
You say I want to win a Grand Slam. But to have the belief I did, and actually executing, winning a Grand Slam, I can't believe it."
The first Grand Slam final - men's or women's - to be contested by two unseeded players featured qualifier Raducanu and little-known Fernandez, who was 73rd in the standings heading into the tournament.
One unseeded player reaching a major final would be considered remarkable; two would be considered unbelievable.
Even more impressive was Raducanu's march to the title, in which she did not drop a single set or even play a tie-break, swatting aside more experienced opponents with the same ease with which she hammered winners.
Fernandez knocked out second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka, four-time Grand Slam winner and defending champion Naomi Osaka, fifth seed Elina Svitolina, and three-time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber on her way to the final.
Regardless of the statistics, Raducanu insisted that winning the US Open was not as easy as it appeared.
"I'd say even though I didn't on paper drop a set, I think I faced a lot of adversity in every single one of my matches," she said. "I can pick moments where I was down.
"Just to come through those are important.
"I think what I did very well this tournament was press in the moments that I really needed to."
The 19-year-old Canadian faced a younger opponent, if only by a couple of months, for the first time during the Flushing Meadows fortnight. But she was at a loss for words when it came to the icy cool Raducanu.
Both players walked onto a frothing Arthur Ashe Stadium court with "I can't believe I am here" ear-to-ear grins but soon had their game faces on, focusing on the challenge ahead.
The charismatic teenagers had charmed the New York crowds with fearless play and contagious enthusiasm, leaving excited fans with a difficult choice over who to back in the final, which was eventually split evenly.
"It was an incredibly difficult match but I thought the level was extremely high,” said Raducanu.
“Leylah’s always going to play great tennis and always going to fight – that’s just the competitor she is... I think just staying in the moment, focusing on what I had to do... really helped in those tough times.”
While the scoreline suggests a one-sided match, the nearly two-hour match featured plenty of jaw-dropping tennis and more than a dash of drama, particularly in the second set, which Raducanu threatened to win when, at 5-2 up, she earned two match points on Fernandez's serve.
The battling Canadian made a comeback to stay alive, and when the Briton went down chasing a ball and scraped her knee, causing blood to drip down her leg, the tide appeared to be turning.
Fernandez, who had just earned a breakpoint, looked on in frustration as trainers bandaged the wound, not wanting to lose the building momentum.
Nothing, however, could stop Raducanu from fulfilling her destiny, as she returned to finish off her opponent with an ace.
"I have no idea what I'm doing tomorrow," said Raducanu, who might indulge in a New York shopping spree after pocketing a winner's purse of $2.5 million, almost 10 times her previous career earnings of $303,000. "I'm just really trying to embrace the moment, really take it all in.
"Right now, no care in the world, I'm just loving life."
Edited - SportsAction / Inputs - Agency