Rising British tennis star Emma Raducanu completed a Grand Slam fairytale after beating Canadian Leylah Fernandez 6-4 6-3 in the clash of the teens to be crowned US Open champion for the first time in her career.
It was the first Grand Slam final – men’s or women’s – to be contested by two unseeded players, featuring qualifier Raducanu who is ranked 150th in the world and Fernandez, ranked 73rd in the standings.
While the scoreline might hint at a one-sided affair, the near two-hour contest featured plenty of jaw-dropping tennis and plenty of drama, particularly in a second set. Raducanu threatened to run away with the title when, at 5-2 up, she earned two match points on Fernandez’s serve.
Emma Raducanu hits a forehand against Leylah Fernandez during the 2021 women’s US Open final at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, USA
The battling Canadian mounted a comeback to stay alive and when the Briton went down chasing a ball and scraped her knee, leaving blood dripping down her leg as the tide looked ready to turn.
As trainers bandaged the wound, Fernandez, who had just earned a break point, looked on in frustration, not wanting to lose the building momentum.
In the end, however, nothing was going to prevent Raducanu from realising her destiny, as she returned to finish off her opponent with an ace.
It was a victory that required blood, sweat and in the end a few tears as the 18-year-old became the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam title and the first British woman to claim a major trophy since Virginia Wade triumphed at Wimbledon in 1977.
“It’s an absolute dream,” said Raducanu, who will rise up from 150th to number 23rd in the world rankings on Monday. “I’ve always dreamed of winning a Grand Slam. You just say these things.”
“You say, I want to win a Grand Slam. But to have the belief I did, and actually executing, winning a Grand Slam, I can’t believe it.”
All the more remarkable was that Raducanu’s march to the title required 10 matches and she did not drop a single set or even play a tie-break, swatting aside more experienced opponents with the same ease as she hammered winners.
Fernandez left a graveyard of seeds and champions in her trail to the final, her victims including second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka, four-time Grand Slam winner and defending champion Naomi Osaka, fifth seed Elina Svitolina and three-time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber.
“It was an incredibly difficult match but I thought the level was extremely high,” said Raducanu. “Leylah’s always going to play great tennis and always going to fight – that’s just the competitor she is.”
“I think just staying in the moment, focusing on what I had to do really helped in those tough times.”
Raducanu’s win also received the royal stamp of approval with Queen Elizabeth taking to social media to offer congratulations.
“I send my congratulations to you on your success in winning the United States Open Tennis Championships. It is a remarkable achievement at such a young age, and is testament to your hard work and dedication,” Queen Elizabeth said.
“I have no doubt your outstanding performance, and that of your opponent Leylah Fernandez, will inspire the next generation of tennis players. I send my warmest good wishes to you and your many supporters.”