September 18, 2021

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US Open: Emma Raducanu beats Leylah Fernandez and wins the first Grand Slam

Place: Flushing Meadows, New York Date: August 30-September 12
Coverage: Daily radio commentary on the BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra / BBC Sport website and app, with selected live text commentary and match reports on the website and app

Emma Raducanu ended Britain’s 44-year wait for a women’s Grand Slam champion by beating Leylah Fernandez to win the US Open in the most exciting style.

The 18-year-old ended her unlikely run in New York with a 6-4 6-3 win over her 19-year-old Canadian opponent in a high-quality final.

Raducanu threw himself to the ground in disbelief as he fired an ace to conclude what was the most extraordinary journey.

Raducanu served for the match at 5-3 but cut her leg as she went to break point, leading to a medical time-out and a clearly irritated Fernandez expressing his frustration to the match official.

However, Raducanu shrugged off the delay, saving another break point before closing his third point in the league.

The two shared a warm hug before Raducanu climbed the stairs at Arthur Ashe Stadium to celebrate with his support box.

Raducanu was cheered by an emotional Virginia Wade, who was the last British woman to win a major trophy at Wimbledon in 1977.

Emma Raducanu is the first to qualify to win a Grand Slam and did so without losing a set

“It means so much to have Virginia Wade here and Tim Henman too,” Raducanu said in his speech on the pitch.

“They are British icons and for me, following in their footsteps has given me the conviction that I can do it.”

With the victory, Raducanu becomes:

  • The first British woman to win Flushing Meadows by Virginia Wade in 1968
  • The first qualified in the Open era to win a Grand Slam
  • The youngest female Grand Slam champion after Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon in 2004
  • Youngest Brit to win a Grand Slam title
  • The first woman to win the US Open without losing a set to Serena Williams in 2014

She will take home £ 1.8m in prize money, climb to 23 in the world rankings and become UK number one on Monday.

Raducanu will also know that he starred in one of the most important moments in the history of British sport and that he captured the imagination of fans at home and in New York.

The rise and rise of Raducanu

Amazing. Ridiculous. Meteoric. Incredible. Make your choice, but no words can ever truly sum up what Raducanu has achieved.

Two weeks ago, Raducanu had booked a flight to the UK, in case he failed to qualify in New York. Seventeen days later, he raised the trophy in front of an ecstatic crowd.

Raducanu didn’t just come through qualification: he dominated it. Most of the games he has lost in one set throughout his run in New York – five – have made it to the second qualifying round.

Not only did Raducanu go on to win, but he did it with such dominance. He didn’t miss a set en route to the final, despite meeting Olympic champion Belinda Bencic and Maria Sakkari in shape along the way.

In important moments he kept his nerve, trusting in his power and his service, even when he saw two championship points pass in the final.

This is a person who, two months ago, was reaping his A-level results. He made his WTA main draw debut only in June. All of this happened so quickly, yet Raducanu never looked like he belonged to her.

With all the attention on Raducanu after Wimbledon – as well as the questions of some about her mental strength – she could have easily been overwhelmed.

Instead, she trusted herself, hired a new coach at Andrew Richardson and went to America to play in various events.

Nobody could have seen it coming; not the ease with which Raducanu rejected his opponents, nor the calm with which he faced every match.

But Raducanu has always believed. And she will leave New York as the US Open champion.

A tweet from Emma Raducanu asking if the A-level exams will be held in 2021
Emma Raducanu received an A * and A in math and economics in her A-Levels – and then won the US Open two months later

‘An almost perfect performance’ – analysis

Former UK number one Laura Robson on BBC Radio 5 Live: “There are so many sliding door moments. Before Wimbledon, Emma did not have a wild card for the main draw. Would it be in this position if they didn’t update it? Would it have happened if he didn’t have to retire from round four due to respiratory problems?

“He played a near-perfect performance in his first Grand Slam final. You have to think that there will be many more. “

Former Wimbledon Champion Pat Cash: “I can’t believe it. It is unheard of for a qualifier to win the US Open. Goran Ivanisevic won Wimbledon as a wildcard but had already been to the Wimbledon finals, not playing a second Grand Slam.

“She hits so cleanly. I can’t find a reason for this to happen. It makes no sense at all. His performance is mind-boggling “.

BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller: “I’ve never seen anything like it and I suspect that if I work in this industry for another 20 years I won’t see anything like it.”

Nerves? What nerves?

An entire Arthur Ashe Stadium – holding nearly 24,000 people – is one of the most intimidating venues in tennis, but neither player seemed baffled as they entered the most important phase of their careers.

Fernandez had more support from the crowd, as he ousted second, third and fifth seed in New York, but there was still good support for Raducanu.

The first three games lasted 23 minutes, both players showed a devastating series of cross punches and fiery serve returns, and swapped pauses as they found their balance.

As she did throughout the tournament, Raducanu redeemed herself from 0-30 multiple times, stepping forward, playing more aggressively and finding first serve.

This gave her the confidence to attack Fernandez’s second serve and take command. He closed the first set with a forehand along the line, turning and pumping his fist towards his box before letting out a shout of “let’s go!” to the crowd that rose to applaud.

Fernandez showed tenacity throughout the tournament and did so here, saving three break points in his first serving game to prevent Raducanu from taking a 2-0 lead in the second.

He then found the break, adapting to better hit Raducanu’s serves, and it seemed the momentum had turned the young Canadian’s way upside down.

However, there is a reason why Raducanu didn’t leave a set in New York. At the change he sat silently, eyes closed, before picking up the pace again and creating the opportunity for a break.

He broke with the shot of the match: an extraordinary forehand pass, made almost off the pitch, which left Fernandez blocked at the net.

Two championship points went and went to Fernandez’s serve, saved once again by a brave blow, but Raducanu didn’t hesitate despite a bad cut to his leg as he slipped behind the baseline.

It was a strange interlude in what was a fun final that proved that the future of women’s tennis is bright.

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