Out of the group of the 300 best tennis players in the world for about two months, Emma Raducanu celebrated this Saturday (11) her first title in a Grand Slam tournament.
In one of the most amazing journeys in tennis history, the British won the US Open at 18 years old. In the final, she beat Canadian Leylah Fernandez, 19, by 2 sets to 0, partial 6/4 and 6/3.
It was the tenth match that Raducanu won without losing a set in the tournament, totaling 20 partials in his favor in 20 played since the three games of the qualifying phase. The British was the first tennis player, of both genders, to win a Slam after passing through the preliminary stage.
She entered the US Open at 150th position in the rankings. At the end of June, before playing Wimbledon, it was 338th — now it will be 23rd.
In the British Slam, Raducanu received an invitation and reached the round of 16, when he abandoned the match after suffering an anxiety attack that affected his breathing. The surprising campaign provided that the hitherto unknown athlete aspired to at least participate in her second tournament of this level.
She did much more than that in New York, in an impeccable performance that won over Olympic champion Belinda Bencic and ended up with the title this Saturday.
Fernandez, who entered the US Open at 73rd in the rankings (will be 28th), also surprised by defeating three top 10 players along the way: two-time champions Naomi Osaka, Elina Svitolina and Aryna Sabalenka.
The beginning of the first set was marked by nervousness, mistakes and long games. Raducanu started better and consummated the service break in the second game, on the sixth opportunity he had. But Fernandez immediately returned, taking his fourth chance.
The two tennis players began to loosen up more along the partial, each within their game proposal: the British willing to define the points with more power, while the Canadian bet on the variation of balls and the lengthening of the match, something that rival had not experienced it until then.
When Fernandez served 4-5, Raducanu took advantage of the fourth set point to break the opponent again with a winning right and close the first set.
The second half started open, with breaks on both sides, but the British once again made her defining power prevail, firing accurate forehands and backhands to take the lead. Meanwhile, the Canadian struggled and was still alive in the confrontation.
The final moments had drama. Raducanu lost two match points on Fernandez’s serve and then needed to save three break points on his serve. Before one of them, she still received medical attention after falling on the court, scraping her knee and suffering bleeding at the site.
The Canadian didn’t like it —apparently without noticing that her opponent had bled— and even complained to the judge, but the stoppage was within the rule. Raducanu recovered in the game and even closed the game with an ace.
Also born in Canada to a Romanian father and a Chinese mother, she moved to England at the age of two and has now become the first British slam champion since Virginia Wade at Wimbledon-1977.
The feat earned him a message of congratulations sent by Queen Elizabeth II. “It’s a remarkable achievement at such a young age, and it’s a testament to his hard work and dedication. I have no doubt that his outstanding performance, and that of his opponent Leylah Fernandez, will inspire the next generation of tennis players.”
Raducanu is also the youngest slam winner since Russian Maria Sharapova, aged 17 at Wimbledon-2004.
“I think this final shows that the future of women’s tennis is very good,” said the Briton during the awards ceremony. “Every player in the bracket definitely has a chance to win any tournament. I hope the next generation can follow in the footsteps of the greatest legends, like Billie Jean King, and all those at the top now.”
Fernandez, who lives in Florida, took advantage of the sad 20-year milestone of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, to honor Americans who experienced the tragedy that took place in the same city that hosts the tournament. “I just want to say that I hope to be as strong and tough as New York has been for the past 20 years.”