US Open Smells Like Teen Spirit! Fernandez Stuns Sabalenka, Meets Raducanu In Final
The teen takeover continued at the US Open Thursday night in the semifinals. The two young stars, Leylah Fernandez and Emma Raducanu, set an improbable and remarkable final on Saturday.
The diminutive Fernandez opened the Thursday night session authoring a stunner upsetting No.2 Aryna Sabalenka 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-4.
“It was definitely a very good match from both of us,” Fernandez said. “She started incredibly well in the beginning, but I’m just glad I was able to stay patient, fight for every point.
“I was glad in the tiebreaker I was able to be offensive but not overly playing and go for my shots. The second set I had my chances, but I did a few mistakes. She jumped on the opportunity to get the set.
“In the third, it was just a good battle. We went till the end. I was glad I was able to put that one more ball back in.”
Early on, the world No. 2 Sabalenka displayed all her awesome power in crushing the 19-year-old to go up 3-0.
Fernandez would wait for Sabalenka to come down from her tree, and sure enough the errors crept back in and the Belarussian’s run was done. Fernandez would come back to the roar of the crowd, and then saved a match point serving 5-6.
Fernandez would take her fifth straight breaker of the event, recovering from a mini-break down.
After blowing the lead in the first, Sabalenka settled back down in the second, hammering away to take the second 6-4.
In the third, with the pressure back on Fernandez got back up a break but was re-broken. However, serving to stay in the match at 4-5, Sabalenka completely gagged, tossing in consecutive double faults to get broken at love. Sabalenka couldn’t get a ball in the court in one of her worst games of her career.
Sabalenka three in 45 winners and 52 unforced errors along with eight double faults.
“As always I had a lot of opportunities and I didn’t use it,” said Sabalenka. “In a couple of I would say key moment my serve didn’t work well. Yeah, I’m really disappointed with that. But it is how it is. She play well. I think it was a great match. She deserve this win.”
She went about about losing that early lead.
“I would say that in that set she didn’t do anything,” she said. “I was just, like, sometimes overhitting, sometimes I didn’t move well. As I said, on the key moment, I was up 4-2 serving, and I think I made double-faults. My first-serve percentage wasn’t really good.
“I wouldn’t say that she did something. I would say that I destroy myself.”
Sabalenka then all but admitted she caved under the pressure, something Fernandez will eventually feel.
“Now there is no pressure on her at all,” Sabalenka said. “Crowd are here for her. You kind of feeling this crush and you’re using it, hitting the ball, don’t really thinking, everything is going in. This is nice kind of feeling. I felt it before. This is cool.
“But the question is when you will start to understand what’s going on and where you are, how good can you deal with all these expectations and all this level, all this pressure.”
Fernandez becomes the second 19-year-old Canadian to make the US Open final after Bianca Andreescu in 2019. Fernandez heads into the final after wins over former champions Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber, Elina Svitolina and Sabalenka.
“I think I’ve been doing some things incredible,” Fernandez said. “I don’t know. It’s like I think one word that really stuck to me is ‘magical’ because not only is my run really good but also the way I’m playing right now.
“I’m just having fun, I’m trying to produce something for the crowd to enjoy. I’m glad that whatever I’m doing on court, the fans are loving it and I’m loving it, too. We’ll say it’s magical ”
“The fun and underdog role is over, though. Fernandez will now meet fellow-teen Raducanu in the final.”
Raducanu followed Fernandez blowing past Maria Sakkari in routine fashion 6-1, 6-4. Sakkari, who played one of her best matches last night beating Karolina Pliskova, could hardly get a serve in against the teen.
“Honestly I just can’t believe it,” Raducanu said after. “A shock. Crazy. All of the above.
“I always had dreams of playing in Grand Slams, but I just didn’t know when they would come,” she said. “To come this early, at this point in my career, I’ve only really been on tour for a month, two months since Wimbledon. It’s pretty crazy to me.”
Sakkari came out with multiple break chances in Raducanu’s opening service game and that was it. Once the Brit held, Sakkari fell apart as Raducanu jumped out 4-0.
Sakkari tried to make it a match in the second but couldn’t make an imprint on the youngster.
Raducanu becomes the first woman or man to make a Grand Slam final as a qualifier on the Open Era. And she does it without dropping a set, winning nine matches and all 18 sets.
Sakkari finished with 17 winners and 33 unforced errors. She only connected on 51% of her first serves.
“Clearly things didn’t go well,” Sakkari said. “I wasn’t myself on court. Yeah, I couldn’t make many balls. I gave her so many chances. Didn’t even, like, push her with my game. She found everything pretty easy from my side. But credit to her. She took her chances.
“It’s just that my serve was not there. My groundstrokes. I was missing a lot, which is not very natural for me. I think I did not handle the pressure of playing another semifinal once again. It happens. It’s human emotions.”
So on Saturday, it’s the first all-teen Grand Slam final since the 1999 US Open when a 17-year-old Serena Williams beat an 18-year-old Martina Hingis.
Raducanu, who was born in Toronto, did beat Fernandez at the junior Wimbledon in 2018.
“We first encountered each other because I was born in Toronto and she was Canadian, so we kind of, like, made a little relationship back then,” Raducanu said. “Then I played her at junior Wimbledon. Obviously since then, we’ve both come very far in our games and as people.
“I’m sure it’s going to be extremely different to when we last encountered each other. But we’re both playing good tennis so it will be a good match.”
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