Saturday, September 11, 2021

If she can make it there, she'll make it anywhere: Emma Raducanu is the 2021 U.S. Open champion!

She's 18 years old.

She made her tour debut this year, when she was given a wild card into Nottingham, where she lost in the first round.

Hardly anyone had heard of her until she reached the round of 16 at Wimbledon, then had to retire because of breathing difficulties. 

She had never won a tour-level tournament.

She was ranked number 150 in the world. 

She had to play three qualifying rounds to get into the U.S. Open main draw.

She didn't drop a set throughout the tournament.

She was the first person to ever reach a major final as a qualifier.

And today, the unseeded Emma Raducano of Great Britain became the 2021 U.S. Open champion. 

As if that weren't all amazing enough, there's the equally amazing fact that her opponent was also unseeded. Having two unseeded players in a major final is a first in professional tennis.

Leylah Fernandez of Canada, who turned 19 a few days ago, did a lot of heavy lifting at this year's event, taking out 3rd seed and defending  champion Naomi Osaka, former champion (and very much in form) Angie Kerber, 5th seed Elina Svitolina, and 2nd seed Aryna Sabalenka. Several of her matches went to three sets, and she wound up spending more time on court than Raducanu, despite Raducanu's having played three extra matches.

Fernandez may have been a little tired. She was out-served by Raducanu in the final, plus she had to deal with an opponent who takes the ball more rapidly than most.

The first couple of games were long and complicated, leaving us with the impression that the match could drag out for a long time. Fernandez was broken on Raducanu's seventh break point, putting Raducanu up 2-0. After the first few games, the players eased into a rhythm, and--after being broken--Fernandez, serving to stay in the set--saved three break points before falling 4-6 to her opponent.

Raducanu began the second set by serving an ace. Fernandez broke for 2-1, but was broken right back, and then Raducanu brought the set to 5-2. Fernandez, who had fought like mad throughout the tournament, again produced her best fight-back tennis, saving two championship points and breaking Raducanu. Fernandez then held, and had a break point on Raducanu's serve when Raducanu slid across the court and scraped her knee. Her leg was bleeding, so there was a mandatory medical timeout.

Raducanu returned to the court and saved the break point, and then she saved another one. On her third championship point, Raducanu hit an ace out wide to win the title, 6-4, 6-3. Afterwards, she told ESPN that she'd been trying to hit that particular ace throughout the match and had failed to do so, then thought, "If ever there’s a time to make it, this is the one."

The match may not have gone to three sets, but the quality was very high. Both players were, hands down, the two most impressive players at this year's U.S. Open
: Leylah's fighting spirit and problem-solving skills were nothing short of amazing, and Emma's anticipation and ability to read the court and make fast adjustments were sometimes mind-boggling. Both move very well and are good shot-makers.

I often say that I hate it for either player to lose, and this time, I think I had a lot of company. Both Emma and Leylah (whom serious fans have been keeping an eye on for a while) gave us the greatest show we could have asked for, and that show went on for two weeks. The circumstances surrounding this final may never appear again; two teenage girls made tennis history today, and their contribution to the sport was stunning.


Bill said...

Fun match to watch and I agree - very high quality play.

Diane said...

Even without three sets 🙂