UK’s Raducanu makes history with US Open victory

Emma Raducanu, 18, is the first British woman in 44 years to win Grand Slam title and the first qualifier to win a major.

Britain's Emma Raducanu, 18, celebrates after her victory over Canada's Leylah Fernandez in the US Open women's final on Saturday [Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports]
Britain's Emma Raducanu, 18, celebrates after her victory over Canada's Leylah Fernandez in the US Open women's final on Saturday [Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports]

Britain’s 18-year-old Emma Raducanu became the first qualifier to capture a Grand Slam title as she defeated Canada’s Leylah Fernandez, 19, in the US Open women’s tennis final on Saturday.

The 150th-ranked Raducanu completed her Grand Slam fairy-tale by beating Fernandez in straight sets – 6-4, 6-3 – to be crowned champion.

She is also the first British woman in 44 years to win a Grand Slam title.

Not since Virginia Wade in 1977 at Wimbledon had a British woman won a major tournament, with Raducanu the first Briton to claim the US Open crown since Wade in 1968.

Wade and British men’s tennis legend Tim Henman were among a sellout crowd of 23,700 that created an electric atmosphere at Arthur Ashe Stadium in the first-ever women’s Slam final between unseeded players.

“It means so much to have Virginia here and also Tim,” Raducanu said after her victory. “To have such British legends and icons, for me to follow in their footsteps, it really helped and it definitely gave me the belief that I could actually do it.”

1 hour, 51 minutes

The showdown of prodigy talents was the first all-teen Grand Slam final since 17-year-old Serena Williams beat 18-year-old Martina Hingis for the 1999 US Open crown.

The drama of the much-anticipated meeting produced tension from the start.

Fernandez saved five break points in her opening service game of the match before finally surrendering the 10-minute game on a netted forehand to give Raducanu a 2-0 edge.

Fernandez broke back in the third game, Raducanu netting a backhand on the fourth break point she faced.

With each game a roller-coaster of powerful groundstrokes and sensational shotmaking, the first set hung on a knife’s edge game after game.

Raducanu forced three break points on Fernandez’s serve in the 10th game, but sent backhands long, wide and into the net. On her fourth opportunity, Raducanu blasted a forehand winner to claim the first set after 58 minutes.

Raducanu, left, hugs Fernandez after their match in the women’s singles final [Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports]

In the second set, Fernandez saved three break points and held to 1-1 then broke on a netted backhand by Raducanu to seize a 2-1 edge.

Raducanu broke back to 2-2, blasting a backhand cross-court service return winner to equalise, then later whipped a forehand passing winner by the Canadian to break for a 4-2 advantage.

Raducanu held and forced two match points on Fernandez’s serve in the eighth game but sent a backhand wide and netted a forehand with the title at stake and Fernandez held to 5-3.

Fernandez had a break chance at 30-40 in the ninth game when Raducanu skidded on the court on her left knee and opened a bleeding cut, the match halted while a trainer bandaged the wound.

Fernandez, wiping away tears, complained to the umpire about the granting of a medical timeout to no avail. When play resumed, Fernandez sent a forehand long to squander the break chance and Raducanu ended matters after an hour and 51 minutes on her third ace of the match.

‘A star is born’

Raducanu is the youngest US Open champion since Serena Williams in 1999 and the first US Open women’s champion not to drop a set since Williams in 2014.

She had the fewest Grand Slam starts of any women’s Slam winner, reaching the fourth round in July at Wimbledon in her only prior Slam appearance while Fernandez had won only four matches in six prior Slam appearances.

She also became the youngest Grand Slam champion since 17-year-old Maria Sharapova won at Wimbledon in 2004.

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova congratulated Raducanu on her victory on Saturday.

“A star is born- Emma Raducanu makes history – never has a qualifier won a major- men or women- and she is just getting started,” Navratilova tweeted. “Leylah Fernandez will be back -both are champions but Emma has the trophy- well done!!”

Queen Elizabeth II also congratulated Raducanu on winning the tournament, calling her performance “a remarkable achievement at such a young age” and one that “will inspire the next generation of tennis players”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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