The US Open website captured the sensational story of both 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez and 18-year-old Emma Raducanu’s road to the final as a ‘teenage riot.
Fernandez was the first on court for her semi-final encounter against World No.2, Aryna Sabalenka. The left-handed Canadian took three sets 7-6, 4-6, 6-4 in two hours and 21 minutes to become the first unseeded player since Maria Sharapova to make the final of a Grand Slam since 2004.
But more history was in the offing when British qualifier, Raducanu, stepped on the Arthur Ashe Court to face the energetic No.17 seed, Maria Sakkari. Just like she has done over the last three weeks, the world No. 179 beat the Greek player in two sets of 6-1, 6-4 in one hour and 23 minutes to become the first woman in history to play from the qualifiers to a major final. And she is yet to drop a set.
One thing is assured, the winner of the 2021 US Open women’s singles will be new and under 20 years of age. This should not come as a surprise as six of the last 10 women’s winners have been first timers.
Samantha Stosur in 2011; Flavia Pennetta in 2015; Angelique Kerber in 2016; Sloane Stephens in 2017; Naomi Osaka in 2018; and Bianca Andreescu in 2019.
No.2 seed, Sabalenka, must have believed it was her time to finally snag a major but the unseeded Fernandez was having none of that and the Belarussian was hampered by 52 unforced errors even though she served 10 aces and hit 45 winners to Fernandez’s 23.
Raducanu revealed she had booked her flight out of the U.S last week in anticipation of not making it into the second week but here she is in the final. After the victory over Sakkari, she asked the crowd at Arthur Ashe, “Is there any expectation? I’m a qualifier, so technically on paper there’s no pressure on me.”
In Fernandez, she will face an opponent who comes to court to have fun. Fernandez revealed earlier on in the tournament, “Having fun on the court, I think that’s the key to anybody’s success, especially mine. If I’m not happy or I’m putting too much pressure on myself, I start making mistakes and I’m not enjoying myself,” she added.
The final on Saturday should be fun to watch from these two young breakout stars but one or both of them will feel the weight and pressure of playing in the final of a Grand Slam for the very first time. The winner gets a prize money of $2.5 million and the runner-up will go home with $1.5 million.