Raducanu Goes From Qualifier To US Open Champion

Emma Raducanu (photo: Pete Staples/USTA)

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON, September 12, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Oh, to be young and popular – and, now, a first-time major champion, too! Say hello to Emma Raducanu.

The British teenager from London with the captivating smile, mental toughness and a powerful forehand return – a winning trio – has won the US Open women’s singles title. It’s not a dream. In short order, she’s gone from earning her high school A levels back home to winning her first major title on the biggest tennis stage in the world, Arthur Ashe Stadium, in New York.

In a Grand Slam final that was played with both a sense of fierce competitiveness coupled with sheer joy, Saturday’s title match between Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez of Canada was just what the sport of tennis needed. It had plenty energy and verve – and it showcased these two extraordinary young players, who garnered tremendous recogniztion during the New York fortnight.

In the first all-teen final at Flushing meadows since Serena Williams and Martina Hingis battled in 1999, these two free-spirited youngsters – 19-year-old Fernandez and 18-year-old Raducanu – found themselves playing for major glory. One of them would become the sport’s newest major champion.

After an hour and 51 minutes, it was Raducanu who triumphed, 6-4, 6-3, to not only win her first WTA tour-level title but also to become the first qualifier – woman or man – to win a major title. Her bigger serve and ability to maintain her composure added up to be the right stuff.

Raducanu became the first British woman to capture a major title since Virginia Wade won Wimbledon in 1977 and just the sixth British woman to win a Grand Slam in the Open Era. As it happened, Wade, 76, the only other British woman to reach a US Open in the Open Era – winning the first of her three Grand Slam singles titles at the 1968 event when it was played at Forest Hills – was in attendance to witness Raducanu lift her first major trophy. It was presented to her by Hall of Fame great Billie Jean King, the namesake of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center that hosts the US Open annually each summer.

“It means so much to have Virginia here and also Tim [Henman],” Raducanu said during the trophy ceremony that followed the final. “To have these British legends and icons for me to follow in their footsteps really helps, and it gave me the belief to actually do it.”

If pressure is a privilege, as King famously noted, both teen finalists embraced the opportunity to be the center of attraction, playing before 24,000 enthusiastic fans that packed Arthur Ashe Stadium on a nice 75-degree, partly cloudy afternoon, in Flushing Meadows, Queens, on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. The level of play exhibited by both Raducanu and Fernandez throughout was off the charts and it lit up the crowd, who wildly applauded for both players. When one considers that until this week neither had made it beyond the fourth round in a major – and for Raducanu to win 20 of 20 sets during her 10 matches – their display of talent was pretty awesome. These kids were definitely alright.

In a highly entertaining and competitive opening set, Raducanu broke early to lead 2-0 after enduring a 16-point, five-deuce game. She promptly surrendered the lead, but broke back late to win the set 6-4. Fernandez saved three set points but she couldn’t do it on the fourth as Raducanu closed it out after 58 minutes.

Then, in the second set, on serve at 3-2, Raducanu broke for a 4-2 lead and it provided her with enough of a cushion that it didn’t matter she was unable to close out the victory in the eighth game. That’s because Fernandez erased a couple of match points, thanks to her ability to give it everything when it mattered most. Then, serving for the match at 5-3, Raducanu had to take a medical time out after she scraped her knee sliding into a shot. However, a touch of blood couldn’t keep her from pulling off the biggest win in her young pro career.

Raducanu won the US Open title with an ace on her third match-point opportunity – underlying just how strong her serving performance had been throughout the tournament – to close out her remarkable victory. She fell to the court in triumph, then bounced back up grinning from ear to ear. After congratulating Fernandez, she found her way up into the stands to hug her team.

Looking at the numbers, Raducanu finished with 22 winners to 25 unforced errors, won 67 percent (32 of 48) of her first-serve points, converted four of 18 break-point opportunities and outpointed Fernandez 80-68. Fernandez, who won only 56 percent (25 of 45) of her first-serve points, hit 18 winners but committed 26 unforced errors. She broke Raducanu just twice in nine chances.

In her first interview as US Open champion, that was part of the trophy ceremony, Raucanu said: Thank you to everyone here, thank you to New York for making me feel at home from my first qualifying match. You’ve spurred me on through some really difficult moments, and I hope me and Leylah put on a good performance today.”

Earlier in the ceremony, an emotional Fernandez, thanked the crowd and her team, and in her trademark cheeky grin, remarked: “I hope to be back here in the finals, but next time with the trophy. The ‘right’ trophy.

Raducanu gave major props to Fernandez by saying: “Leylah’s always going to play great tennis and always going to fight. That’s just the competitor she is and why she’s here in the final. I knew I’d have to dig deep. I fell somehow and I thought that would throw me off balance. … I was just praying not for a double fault.”

En route to the tittle, Raducanu eliminated Olympic gold medalist and No. 11 seed Belinda Bencic in the quarterfinals for her first Top 20 win, then followed it with a convincing victory against No. 17 seed Maria Sakkari in the semifinals for back-to-back wins over Top 20 foes. Meanwhile, Fernandez reached the final just as impressively, with three Top Five victories, against defending US Open champion and this year’s No. 3 seed Naomi Osaka in the third round; three-time major champion Angelique Kerber in the fourth round, No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina in the quarterfinals and No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka in the semifinals.

During her news conference, Fernandez said looking back on her loss to Raducanu, “I’m going to carry it for a very long time. I think it will motivate me to do better in training, better for the next opportunity I get.

“But, no, I’m very happy with myself, with the way I competed, and the play I played, the way I acted on court the past two weeks. I’ve I’m;roved a lot not only tennis-wise but emotionally and mentally.

“I’m happy. Next year, hopefully it will be just as good.”

In an all-teen championship that was bound to produce plenty of firsts regardless of who won, Raducanu emerged as the WTA’s youngest major champion since Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon in 2004 at age 17. She also went through three rounds of qualifying and seven main-draw matches without dropping a set. The last time a player won the US Open without dropping a set was Serena Williams in 2014. Raducanu also spent less time on court in her 10 matches than Fernandez did in her seven matches – all in the main draw.

Soon, congratulatory messages began to pour in for the newest US Open champion, including from Queen Elizabeth II of England and from Hall of Famer Andy Roddick, the last American man to win the US Open in 2003.

Krawczyk and Salisbury win mixed doubles title

A day after he won the men’s doubles title with American Rajeev Ram, Great Britain’s Joe Salisbury completed a US Open “doubles double” and his partner Desirae Krawczyk of the United States won her third major mixed doubles title this season Saturday.

The British/American duo won their second major title as a team with their 7-5, 6-2 victory over Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador and Giuliana Olmos of Mexico on Arthur Ashe Stadium Saturday afternoon.

Salisbury and Krawczyk were teaming together for the third time this season. They were semifinalists at the Australian Open, then won the title at the French Open. Krawczyk also won Wimbledon with Neal Skupski of Great Britain. Also, Salisbury became the first man since Bob Bryan in 2010 to win the US Open men’s doubles and mixed doubles in the same year.

“It has been such an incredible couple of weeks,” Salisbury said during the trophy ceremony that took place on court after the title match. “Just being back here and playing the US Open, it’s all of you guys with the fans back, it has been so much fun. To come away with two titles, I could not have even dreamed of that. Finished by winning the title with Des, we have had so much fun together.”

Krawczyk added: “It’s been an amazing couple of tournaments together. It has just been great. We have a great chemistry. It has been amazing. Thank you to everyone for coming out to watch us and we’ can’t wait to come back next year.”

Montgomery two-time US Open champion in one day

In the span of just a few hours, 17-year-old American Robin Montgomery from Washington, D.C., became a two-time US Open campion. First, she won the girls’ singles title as the No. 7 seed by defeating No. 6 seed Kristina Dmitruk of Belarus, 6-2, 6-4. Then, she returned to Court 12 and teamed with American Ashlyn Krueger to win the girls’ doubles title over American duo Reese Brantmeier of Whitewater, Wis., and Elvira Kalieva of Staten Island, N.Y., 5-7, 6-4, 10-4.

Montgomery became the first player to win both titles at the the US Open in the same year since Michaella Krajicek of the Netherlands in 2004, and the first American to pull off the double victory since Lindsay Davenport in 1992. The last American to win the US Open girls’ singles title was Amanda Anisimova in 2017.

“To be honest, when I came [to the tournament] I was just trying to make it past the second round,” she said in a news conference. “I wasn’t picturing getting both, but here I am. Hopefully, I can take it to the next level.”

• No. 3 seed Daniel Rincon of Spain won the US Open boys’ singles final by defeating top seed Juncheng Shang of China, 6-2, 7-6 (6). Rincon hit 24 winners, including seven aces, and outpointed Shang 76-63.

“It feels great,” Rincon said. “I still don’t know what to say. I still don’t believe what I did. I’m really happy, I just want to keep playing these kinds of tournaments. [It’s] such a great atmosphere here, so I’m really happy to win in New York.”

Rincon, who trains at the Rafael Nadal Academy and has hit with the 20-time major champion, said: “When we practice, the main thing he tells us is to have full intensity every time. When he talks to us, it’s not so much about strategy, it’s about effort and moving and giving everything, and I think that’s the main thing in tennis.”

• The boys’ doubles final was won by Max Westphal of France and Coleman Wong of Hong Kong, who upset No. 7 seeds Viacheslav Bielinskyi of Ukraine and Petr Nesterov of Bulgaria, 6-3, 5-7, 10-1. Westphal and Wong won the final nine points of the decider.

Saturday’s US Open results

Sunday’s US Open order of play

Around the US Open

By the numbers

Emma Raducanu started the US Open three weeks ago ranked 150th in the world. She’s the lowest-ranked player to win the US Open title since an unbanked Kim Clijsters earned the first major of her comeback at Flushing Meadows in 2009.

• Prior to the US Open, Emma Raducanu‘s career winnings totaled $303,376 (US dollars). For winning her first major, she pocketed $2,500,000. It’s OK, she got a A in her Economics A-level.

• When the new WTA Rankings are released on Monday, No. 150 Emma Raducanu is projected to climb to World No. 23, while Leylah Fernandez, who began the US Open fortnight ranked 73rd, should break into the Top 40.

Desirae Krawczyk became the seventh player, male or female, to win three major mixed doubles titles in the same year in the Open Era, after winning the US Open mixed doubles with Joe Salisbury on Saturday. Others who have achieved three-quarters of a calendar-year Grand Slam include: Martina Hingis and Leander Paes (2015); Martina Navratilova (1985); Bob Hewitt (1979); Marty Riessen and Margaret Court (1969).

“Quotable …”

“I think this final shows that the future of women’s tennis and just the depth of the game right now is so great. I think every single player in the women’s draw definitely has a shot to win any tournament. I hope that the next generation can follow in the steps of the greatest legends – like Billie Jean King –and everyone who is at the top of the game right now.”

– US Open champion Emma Raducanu, 18, during the trophy ceremony.

“I hope I can be as strong and as resilient as New York has been the past 20 years. Thank you for always having my back, thank you for always cheering for me.”

Leylah Fernandez, 19, US Open runner up at the end of her remarks during the trophy ceremony.