Leylah Fernandez and Emma Raducanu to meet in the US Open final on Saturday

It was no small feat to come up with a tennis story that could rival the first serious offer for a men’s singles. Grand Slam in 52 year...


It was no small feat to come up with a tennis story that could rival the first serious offer for a men’s singles. Grand Slam in 52 years.

But the women somehow managed to do it in this crazy and wonderful edition of the US Open. Or to be more precise, the teenagers did it.

After overthrowing their elders one by one, Emma Raducanu, 18 years old, from Great Britain and Leyla fernandez, 19, from Canada will now compete in the singles final on Saturday.

“I find it fascinating that literally the only way for the women’s draw to focus on Novak Djokovic pursuing tennis’s most historic achievement, the Grand Slam of the calendar year, was to come up with something like a fairy tale. “said Pam Shriver, once herself a surprise US Open finalist at the age of 16. “With all due respect, it couldn’t have been the No.2 player and No.10 player going head-to-head, but this story is almost like the perfect complement to Djokovic to go for the story.

It will be the first Teen Grand Slam final since Serena Williams defeated Martina Hingis in 1999 at Flushing Meadows to win the first of her 23 major singles titles.

It seems fitting, with Williams missing this tournament with a leg injury and soon to be 40, that two young players have joined them in generating a similar discovery buzz.

But it’s not quite the same teenage scene. Williams and Hingis were already stars in 1999. Hingis was ranked No. 1 and seeded No. 1. Williams was the No.7 seed and had been making headlines and waves with his older sister Venus for years.

Fernandez and Raducanu only knew tennis connoisseurs before arriving in New York. Fernandez is unranked and ranked 73rd. Raducanu is ranked 150th, which means she had to qualify to reach the main draw. Although she turned heads, especially in Britain, reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon on her Grand Slam singles debut this year, she seemed overwhelmed by the timing and the physical challenge and did couldn’t finish this fourth round match against Ajla Tomljanovic because she was having trouble breathing.

But instead of that chilling experience holding her back, she has rebounded beautifully and has yet to lose a set in New York: not in three qualifiers or her six main draw matches against much more experienced players, including the new Olympic champion Belinda Bencic. .

Raducanu is the first qualifier to reach a Grand Slam singles final, going one lap further than John McEnroe.

Before Wimbledon, Raducanu was only her country’s 10th player, but she will be Britain’s No.1 on Monday and potentially the first British woman to win a major singles title since Virginia Wade at Wimbledon in 1977.

Wade watched inside Arthur Ashe Stadium late Thursday night as Raducanu fought off seven break points in his first two service games, then hit the accelerator to defeat No.17 seed Maria Sakkari, 6 -1, 6-4.

When Raducanu finished her last upset with a cleverly timed forehand volley, she dropped her racquet and put both hands on her head, a distant look in her eyes.

She was later asked how she would describe what she had accomplished so far.

“A surprise,” she said. “Yeah, honestly, I just can’t believe it. A shock. Crazy. All the foregoing. But it means a lot to be here in this situation. I obviously wanted, for example, to play Grand Slam tournaments, but I didn’t know how long that would be. To be in the Grand Slam final at this point in my career, I have no words. “

Shortly before, Fernandez was asked to describe what she had achieved so far following her much more suspenseful semi-final victory over No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka.

“I’m just having fun,” she said. “I try to produce something that will appeal to the crowd. I’m glad whatever I do on court the fans love it, and I love it too. We will say that it is magic.

The word applies to both players’ journeys to the final, but their paths to this rarefied moment have been both remarkably similar and remarkably different. Both were born in Canada, but although Raducanu still holds a Canadian passport, she left with her parents to live in London when she was 2 years old. Both also grew up in multicultural homes. Raducanu’s father is Romanian; her mother is Chinese. Fernandez’s father, Jorge, also his trainer, was born in Ecuador and immigrated to Canada at the age of 4 with his parents, and Fernandez’s mother was born in Canada to parents who emigrated from the Philippines.

But Fernandez’s family had significant financial challenges and hardships, with his mother leaving Canada to work in California for several years during Fernandez’s youth in order to better support the family.

“These few years have been really tough for me because I needed a mom,” Fernandez said. “I needed someone to be there for me until I was 10 to 13 years old. I hardly saw her at that time. Every time I saw her it was like seeing a stranger but at the same time someone so familiar.

Although Tennis Canada has provided some support for Fernandez’s tennis, the money has often been tight, his father said.

Fernandez said she also had many doubts early in her career about her potential. She remembered a teacher in Canada telling her to stop playing tennis and focus only on her studies because she “would never make it.”

“Now I’m laughing,” she said. “I’m just glad she told me because every day I have this line in my head saying I’m going to keep going.” I will go all the way and I will prove to him everything I dreamed of, I will make it happen.

She’s off to a good start in New York after a disappointing summer of results and never getting past the third round of her first six Grand Slam tournaments.

Raducanu, whose parents work in finance, doesn’t seem to be driven by a desire to appease doubters, and unlike Fernandez, she wasn’t firmly set on being a professional tennis player until recently.

“Maybe two years ago,” she says. “I have always had my education in reinforcement. I did it next to my tennis. I had options. I still do, but obviously I’m one hundred percent into my tennis now. “

Raducanu and Fernandez met as juniors, and Raducanu said they were linked by their Canadian roots. But so far their most important previous match had been in the second round of the Wimbledon junior tournament in 2018.

They will meet on Saturday with a little more stakes, during the first women’s final of the US Open between unranked players.

Choosing a winner seems like a mad race given the inexperience of both players at this level. Raducanu has been the most dominant force, sending off opponents with powerful precision, and they are tied for second in the tournament for percentage of return games won and percentage of service games won. Fernandez had to give up, shove and believe through four straight sets. But Fernandez also had a more difficult draw: she beat two former No. 1 players at Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber; 2018 WTA Finals champion Elina Svitolina; and the imposing Sabalenka.

Fernandez’s ability to beat so many quality players in tense and close matches is a tribute to her determination, adaptability and talent. She is left-handed and her serve, especially her first serve, was very efficient. She was selective and daring effective, hitting more return winners (22) than any other player in this Open. Sabalenka overwhelmed her early on Thursday, but Fernandez then adjusted to the pace and brought her back, sometimes swapping low base bolts and abruptly changing pace with dropping shots on others.

As tempting as it is to see this as the arrival of two new top players, the recent history of women’s tennis calls for more restraint. The game produced new contenders for a quick clip. Since the start of 2015, there have been 13 first Grand Slam singles champions, with Raducanu or Fernandez set to be the 14th. Some of these champions have established themselves as No.1 players, like Osaka and Ashleigh Barty. But others have backed down, like Sloane Stephens and Jelena Ostapenko.

“On the women’s side, lately, we just don’t know what will happen after this success,” said Shriver. “For this particular tournament it’s amazing, but for it to pay dividends in the long run, we have to see them in the quarterfinals, semi-finals and finals. That would be great, but we have to be patient because of how things might go off the rails for one or both of them after that because of how it changes the life of a teenager. I certainly understand that, but for now let’s take advantage of it.

It seems like the right approach. The joy of the teens was a delight to see as they took turns lighting up this US Open and turning it into perhaps the most surprising women’s Grand Slam tournament of the Open era.

Returning from Queens to Manhattan well after midnight Friday, the bus passed a huge US Open billboard featuring Serena Williams with the words “The Incredible Returns”.

Even without Williams at Flushing Meadows this year, the words still ring true.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Leylah Fernandez and Emma Raducanu to meet in the US Open final on Saturday
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