US Open 2021: Emma Raducanu faces teenager Leylah Fernandez in the final


Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez
Emma Raducanu (left) and Leylah Fernandez are 37 years old together
Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York Date: September 11th Time: 9:00 PM BST
Coverage: Radio commentary on the BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra website and app, with live text commentary on the website and in the app

Emma Raducanu will try to become the first Briton to win a Grand Slam title in singles at the age of 44 when she faces her teenager Leylah Fernandez in the incredible US Open final between two players who set New York on fire.

The final between world numbers 150 and 73 was never predicted, nor should it be exciting, but this US Open – and these two players – defied expectations at every turn.

Raducanu’s story is a dream-under-ranked for the main draw, the 18-year-old had to go through three qualifying rounds and became the first qualifier to reach the grand final.

And she did it all without dropping the set.

The 19-year-old Fernandez has eliminated a number of leading players – with the exception of title defender Naomi Osaka, fifth seed Elina Svitolina, world number two Aryna Sabalenka and three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber.

Their different paths and contrasting styles – but in a similarly fearless approach – set the first Grand Slam final among teenagers since the US Open in 1999 when Serena Williams defeated Martin Hingis.

A girlish big bait for one of them, but no matter whose name is engraved on the trophy, they both showed that there is a bright future for tennis at a time when fans were wondering who could fill the gap when the biggest names in the sport finally retire.

Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez order and earnings

‘The whole country will cheer for Raducana’

Raducanu’s exploits have attracted praise from the royal family, politicians and rock stars, as well as experts and fans.

If she finally ends the country’s wait for Virginia Wade’s first female Grand Slam singles champion since the 1977 Wimbledon triumph, someone may have to invent some new superlatives because they’ve all been used to describe her.

It is impressive that not only is she 18 years old, but she also clinically defeated much more experienced players like Olympic champion Belinda Benčić and 17th seed Marija Sakkari with a fearless game that shows great diversity, as well as intelligence to change tactics instead.

And there’s that smile.

Occasionally she appeared so relaxed that she managed to fly between points, and the mega-watt smile that illuminated Arthur Ashe Stadium after converting match points won over home fans as well as those at home.

She has already achieved so much in just three months, reaching the last 16 at Wimbledon on her Grand Slam debut, climbing from 338 in the standings to just outside the top 30 when we next announce them on Monday, and she will become the UK number one.

“When you see such talent, it won’t be disputed,” said 18-year-old Grand Slam singles champion Martina Navratilova.

“It’s almost like a finished product, when it’s just starting out.”

British fans will be relieved the final is at a much more pleasant time than 21:00 BST, and many have set an alarm for the middle of the night when she played the semi-finals.

“The whole country will cheer you on in the final,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote on Twitter.

Emma Raducanu's way to the final
Emma Raducanu’s way to the final

Similar backgrounds, different styles, same goals

Of course, Fernandez, who is just two months older than Raducanu and turned 19 this week, was living her own dream on Flushing Meadows.

She, too, was showered with congratulations, and among the messages from the prime minister and top sports people was this advice from Canadian ice hockey captain Marie-Philip Poulin: “Make sure you take that maple syrup before the final!”

Fernandez’s matches were nicer than Raducanu’s, because four of her six matches went in three sets and had five tie-breaks. The Briton, on the other hand, did not drop the set or face even a tie-break.

But Fernandez’s opponents were bigger names, and her behavior on the field is also different from Raducanu’s.

The left-handed Canadian likes to pump her fists and lift the crowd to get out, while Raducanu cuts a calm figure.

The couple, who were both born in Canada to immigrant parents, grew up playing together in the juniors, facing each other in the second round of 2018 Junior Wimbledon.

Raducanu won the match 6-2 6-4. But so much has changed for both players since then that it is impossible to measure what Saturday will bring.

Such attention is attracted by this match, Novak Djokovic’s search for a record 21st men’s match and calendar grand slam is a bit overshadowed.

“I think we’re all very hungry to make a difference in the world of tennis,” Fernandez said. “We always talked and joked that we would be on a WTA tour and that we would be on the big stage together.

“We want to make a difference. We want to influence tennis.”

Regardless of the result in the final, they have certainly already done so.

Fernandez's path to the final
Put Leylah Fernandez to the finals

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