Emma Raducanu wins US Open in miraculous race

Emma Raducanu , the 18-year-old British phenomenon, completed a shocking run through the US Open with a straight-set victory over Canad...


Emma Raducanu, the 18-year-old British phenomenon, completed a shocking run through the US Open with a straight-set victory over Canada’s Leylah Fernandez on Saturday for a title that will surely go down as one of the great underdogs in the history of the sport.

Raducanu, ranked 150th in the world and barely known two weeks ago, has become the first player to win a Grand Slam title after surviving the qualifying tournament, a scenario that may very well never happen again. She also became the first British woman to win a Grand Slam singles title since Virginia Wade won Wimbledon in 1977.

And she did it like she had handled every other game she’s played in New York, where she hasn’t lost a set in 10 games, a remarkable 20-set streak and another feat that won’t be repeated. probably not anytime soon. Saturday’s score line was a neat 6-4, 6-3. “An absolute dream,” Raducanu said.

Raducanu’s play, a rare blend of power and precision, proved to be too much for Fernandez, a quick and fearless counter-punch who also possesses deceptive power. On Saturday afternoon, however, in front of a crowded Arthur Ashe stadium where the crowd showered the two players with love, Fernandez simply ran out of points and punches, as Raducanu’s laser shots in the deeper parts of the ground continued to land just past the Canadian teenager. to reach.

After a tight first set, in which both players had the opportunity to take the lead early, Raducanu leapt to the finish line in Game 6 of the second set, breaking Fernandez’s serve by blocking what looked like safe storage with a screaming forehand in the line.

Still a fighter, Fernandez saved two match points as she served at 2-5 to maintain the match. In the next match, she sent Raducanu sprawling to the ground, as she chased Fernandez’s shot deep into the corner. But Raducanu settled in during a medical timeout to get a cut to his leg, and five points later ended the game with an ace. She collapsed on the pitch when the stadium exploded.

“I wasn’t praying for a double fault,” Raducanu said of the arrival, just before she became the most unlikely athlete in a Grand Slam trophy tennis had ever seen.

Queen Elizabeth even intervened, send a statement of Balmoral Castle praising Raducanu for “a remarkable achievement at such a young age”.

It was the rarest of the finals, a two-player competition known only to the most loyal tennis fans two weeks ago.

They had played once before, at the Wimbledon junior tournament in 2018. Raducanu also won this match in straight sets. But two years ago, Raducanu was pretty sure his path would lead to college and a career in finance. She took her entrance exams earlier this year, around the time she was playing in the lower level tournaments that earned her a wild-card entry to Wimbledon, where she made her Grand Slam debuts. It was his first summer of high level competition.

Fernandez, who turned 19 this week and is ranked 73rd, was until a few days ago little more than a rambling, undersized fighter. Few had predicted greatness for him. A few years ago, a teacher told her to give up gambling because she would never get anywhere.

For tennis, their breathtaking journey to the final could not have been better. The sport had landed in a delicate situation in the weeks leading up to this US Open. Novak Djokovic arrived in New York City trying to accomplish the rarest of tennis feats, winning all four Grand Slam tournaments in a calendar year, but most of the game’s biggest stars had fallen off the map. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have announced that they are skipping the tournament due to injuries, as are Serena and Venus Williams.

Then, on the first Friday night of the tournament, Naomi Osaka, the reigning champion and biggest new tennis star, lost to Fernandez in three sets and announced that she plans to quit the sport indefinitely. The game, she said, no longer brought her joy. Osaka has spoken in the spring of battling depression since winning her first Grand Slam title at the US Open in 2018.

One more time, the dark side of sports, a lonely, pressure-filled melting pot often endured by young talents unwilling to handle it, had come to light.

Then came Raducanu and Fernandez, two brilliant lights whose lineages span four continents. They thrilled crowds with catchy wins and unique styles. After each win, Raducanu said she couldn’t believe what just happened, while Fernandez said how firmly she believed that she couldn’t lose, even though she was not allowed to think of it this way as she walked through one highly ranked player after the next.

It was something all too rare on the tennis court – the sheer joy of athletes playing freely and freely, without any baggage of missed opportunities from the past, or the pressure that comes with success and the weight of expectations.

The tired clich̩ in sports is that it is often a shame that a player has to lose. Given where Raducanu and Fernandez were just two weeks ago, as they emerged to captivate the tennis world and the millions of people in their countries and elsewhere who rarely pay attention to the sport, it was simply impossible that the one of them Рor tennis itself Рleaves this experience not having won.

There was a late moment in Saturday’s game when the crowd of about 23,000 simultaneously chanted “Let’s go Emma!” And “Let’s go Leylah!” with some fans alternating names on each round. When does this happen?

They had taken such different paths to reach this stage, with Raducanu blazing through her strong but not quite spectacular opponents, and Fernandez surviving all those near-death experiences against Osaka and then three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber, then Elina Svitolina and Aryna Sabalenka, two of the top five players in the world.

Coming into the final, Raducanu spoke of treating it as just another game. Fernandez did not hesitate to talk about the opportunity that presented itself to her. Her father, Jorge, who is her coach, said on Saturday that he would talk to his daughter about the fact that it was not just another game.

“It’s a final, okay,” Jorge Fernandez said on a teleconference from Florida because he had not accompanied his daughter to the tournament, preferring to have her mother, sister and physical trainer there. attend instead. “Let everything sweat. Let’s make sure that no matter how it ends, there are no regrets because we won’t have another chance again, if we’re fantastic, for another year.

In the end, the biggest winner turned out to be Raducanu, who overcame his early nervousness to take the first lead at 2-0, only to see Fernandez rush in quickly and tie the set at two games apiece. From there, the game settled into a tense rhythm with long matches and long points.

With Fernandez serving at 4-5, Raducanu tightened the noose with two killer cross backhands to secure two set points. Fernandez would save them, along with a third, but on the fourth, Raducanu fired a forehand across the line to take his 19th consecutive set.

“I made too many mistakes in the crucial moments,” Fernandez said later. “This loss, I will carry it for a very long time.”

In the second set Fernandez was wobbly in the opening points, then took the lead, then fell back, and it looked like Raducanu was going to pass, but every time Fernandez wobbled over the edge she would come in with another scorching forehand. , or stretched on a lob to extend the rally and get Raducanu to make another untimely mistake. She would do 25 that day. It happens when you are 18 and play the final of a Grand Slam for the first time, and it is only your second Grand Slam.

But Raducanu broke through in the crucial sixth game, and the only question was whether her teenage nerves would be tough enough to take the pressure of closing the tournament.

At first they were absolutely like she was running to get two match points on Fernandez’s serve, but the error bug bit her again, and they went to one of the strangest matches than a final. Grand Slam ever seen, and at a point of two. who left blood running down Raducanu’s leg.

It was a moment that could have panicked the most veteran of players, or caused one as inexperienced as Raducanu to attempt to rush to the finish. Two months ago, during what looked like a panic attack to everyone, she quit in the middle of her fourth round match at Wimbledon, telling coaches she was having trouble breathing.

Instead, as Raducanu faced a breaking point on Saturday and a chance for Fernandez to reclaim the set on serve, she slowly walked over to her chair and called the coach. There, Raducanu put the bandage on his leg, absorbed what was unfolding and let it pass. With Fernandez questioning a tournament official about whether the injury really required a stoppage of play, Raducanu cooled off with the air conditioning tube, then returned to the pitch minutes later, ready to meet his moment.

When it was over, Raducanu said something that so many people have said before her, but no one ever really believed, even those who said it.

“Every player in the women’s draw has a chance to win any tournament,” she said.

After Saturday, no one could argue with her.



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