Laylah is a fighter and I knew I would have to dig deep. –The champion speaking about the second set
An extraordinary final
By Roger Childs
This US Open Women’s final had made history and set records before it had even started, notably that two unseeded players were the finalists. This meant that none of the 32 best players in the world, on their ranking before the tournament, made it to the last two.
The result makes more history – the winner, Britain’s Emma Raducanu, is the first qualifier ever to win a grand slam. The odds on this ever being repeated are incredibly unlikely.
Raducanu had to play and win three preliminary matches to even get into the first round. So in going on to ultimately win the final she played an extraordinary 10 matches! Even more amazingly, she won all ten without losing a set. The fate of qualifiers is normally to be beaten in the first round or two by higher ranked players.
A hard fought victory
Raducanu’s 6-4 6-3 victory over fellow teenager Canadian Leylah Fernandez was by no means straight forward. The players were well matched, and thrilled the large crowd at Flushing Meadows in New York with a style of tennis that stunned a raft of seeded and far more experienced women who were swept aside on the teens inexorable march to the final.
There were many changes of fortune in the match with numerous deuces, broken service games, break points saved and excellent recoveries. In the first set it was 4-4 before the English woman was able to hold serve and then break to be one set up. Another early break put Raducanu 5-2 ahead in the second and with the crowd desperately wanting a third set, Fernandez saved two match points to make it 3-5. The final game was a long one, but in the end the younger of the two teens prevailed.
The complete package
Despite being ranked 155 and 70 in the world before the tournament began, neither Raducanu or Fernandez have any weaknesses in their game. They are “the complete package” and a question no-one can answer is why they played so much better than their more vaunted opposition. They very quickly became great players.
Both have fast effective serves and powerful ground strokes, which they employ with superb placements to run their opponents around the court. They also mix up their play with occasional drop shots and both have strong overheads, and effective volleying skills.
They are extremely fit and athletic, and often in the final the excited spectators were ready to applaud another “winner” when an amazing retrieval saw the ball back in play. Of course there were occasional unforced errors and double faults, but that always happens when the two best players in a tournament meet.
A very impressive feature of their game is their court demeanour. Both are very determined players and they show a maturity beyond their years. There are no angry verbal outbursts or examples of racket abuse which too many far more experienced players occasionally exhibit.
Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez have lovely smiles and they come across as thoroughly pleasant, friendly young women who are mature and focused. Both spoke well at the presentations and Fernandez made a much appreciated, poignant reference to the trauma New Yorkers have gone through since the Twin Towers catastrophe which occurred exactly 20 years before.
Emma Radacanu became the first British woman since Virginia Wade to win and it was great to see Wade in the audience cheering on her young compatriot. Raducanu and Fernandez have great futures. In September 2021 they have had an extraordinary impact on the world of women’s tennis and in being the first ever unseeded grand slam finalists they created history that is highly unlikely ever to be repeated.