Few if anyone had heard of Emma Raducanu four months ago. Now, she’s a Grand Slam champion!
The 18-year-old Raducanu bested Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 6-3 today in the final of the US Open, completing an incredible, unprecedent run which saw her run through qualifying and then the main draw all without losing a single set, a first in the Open Era.
“It’s an absolute dream,” Raducanu said.
“Everything came together today. I think to pull off some of the shots I did in the big moments when I really needed it was just an accumulation of everything I’ve learnt in the past five weeks.
“The atmosphere was absolutely incredible today. The amount of fans and spectators in the crowd, I was very surprised by the turnout, to be honest. But I was really loving just playing in front of crowd and fans again.”
In the first unseeded Slam final in the Open Era, Raducanu began with a strong hold before things got tight. The Brit was able to break for 2-0 but only after a marathon 16-point game.
The crowd roared after Fernandez saved a break point to hold 2-1 and eventually break back. But with Fernandez serving to stay in it at 4-5, Raducanu smacked to big forehands to take the set.
In the second, Fernandez found some energy after leaving the court following the first. She would break for a 2-1 lead however Raducanu came right back to level, hold and then break again for 4-2.
Serving 2-5, Fernandez saved two set points to extend the match.
Then serving for the match at 5-3, 30-all, Raducanu’s left knee skidded along the court as she reached for a ball. She lost the point and then needed about five minutes for the trainer to tend to the bleeding cut that was left just below her knee.
Raducanu returned and calmly saved the break point and moments later served it out with her third ace.
“I thought from the very beginning I knew it was going to be an extremely difficult match because Leylah, she’s played some unbelievable tennis, taking out a lot of the top 10 this week,” Raducanu said. “I knew that I’d really have to bring my game.
“I was just trying to focus as much as possible on one point at a time. There were some really great battles. I really had to dig deep to face quite a bit of adversity in both sets. I’m just proud of how I managed to stick in and come through in the end.”
Raducanu is the first British woman to win a Grand Slam since Virginia Wade 44 years ago at Wimbledon in 1997. She also becomes the youngest Grand Slam winner since Maria Sharapova won 2004 Wimbledon at age 17.
Raducanu was playing just her four WTA-level event and second Grand Slam after reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon as a wildcard.
“I’ve always dreamed of winning a Grand Slam,” said Raducanu. “You just 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.
“I first started when I was a little girl, but I think the biggest thing that you have visions of is, for me it was just winning, the winning moment, and going to celebrate with your team in the box, trying to find your way up to the box, just seeing them after the match. That’s been playing in my head, like, a couple nights.”
Ranked No. 150, Raducanu is also the lowest ranked Grand Slam women’s winner behind only Kim Clijsters who won the US Open when she was unranked in 2009.
Fernandez, who came up just short, will see her ranking jump from No. 73 into the Top 30. The 19-year-old lefty proved a worthy finalist with shocking wins over Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber, Elina Svitolina and Aryna Sabalenka. That’s three Top 5 players and another former champion, all consecutively.
“I unfortunately made one too many mistakes in key moments and she took advantage of it. Emma played a great tournament, so congratulations to her and her team,” Fernandez said.
“I am still disappointed. I think this loss, I’m going to carry it for a very long time. I think it will motivate me to do better in training, better for the next opportunity I get.”
Both player will finish the year in the Top 30, and will be seeded for many tournaments to come.
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