Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez are so similar in numerous ways: They possess enviable quickness and anticipation. They take balls low to the bottom and redirect them with ease. They love the large moment. they do not care what proportion better-known or more successful opponents are. There’s more. They’re both teenagers. They’re both unseeded at the U.S. Open. They’re both getting loud backing from the crowds. And now, remarkably, they’re both slam finalists.
Raducanu, an 18-year-old from Britain who is ranked 150th, and Fernandez, a 19-year-old from Canada who is ranked 73rd, took wildly different paths to the championship match at Flushing Meadows on Thursday night. They’ll be back in Ashe Stadium on Saturday for the primary major final between two teens since the 1999 U.S. Open, when Serena Williams, 17, defeated Martina Hingis, 18. Raducanu became the primary qualifier to succeed in a slam final within the professional era by overwhelming 17th-seeded Maria Sakkari 6-1, 6-4. Appearing in only her second major tournament, Raducanu won all 18 sets she has played during three matches in qualifying rounds and 6 within the main draw.
“The time here in NY has gone so fast. I’ve just been taking care of every day,” Raducanu said, “and before you recognize it, three weeks later, I’m within the final and that I can’t believe it.” Who can? Quickly, Raducanu was up 5-0 against French Open semifinalist Sakkari and zip really changed from there. Sakkari earned seven break points therein span; Raducanu got three. The difference? Sakkari couldn’t convert any; Raducanu took advantage of two chances — or, better, accepted her opponent’s generosity on two of them, once with a netted backhand, once with a double-fault.
By the end, Raducanu made just 17 unforced errors to Sakkari’s 33 and now’s the youngest Slam finalist since Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon at age 17 in 2004. Fernandez isn’t much older — her birthday was Monday — and she or he made it through a semifinal crammed with momentum swings to edge No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-4. At the outset, Sabalenka looked on top of things, claiming 12 of the primary 14 points for a 3-0 lead. Just eight minutes had elapsed and most spectators were yet to succeed in their seats. Not until later did the 20,000-plus within the stands rally the fist-aloft Fernandez with chants of “Let’s go, Leylah! Let’s go!” amid rhythmic clapping.
“I’m glad that whatever I’m doing on the court, the fans are loving it — and I am loving it, too,” Fernandez said. “We’ll say it’s magical.” At the top of the primary set and again the third, it had been Sabalenka, a Wimbledon semifinalist in July, who let things escape from her. within the last game, she double-faulted twice during a row to line up point, then sailed a forehand long. “This,” Sabalenka said, “is what we call pressure.” No matter what, seemingly, Fernandez didn’t feel it. Didn’t waver. And why would she at this point? Her poise, very similar to Raducanu’s, is as limitless as their potential.
This was the left-handed Fernandez’s fourth consecutive three-set victory over a seeded opponent. First came No. 3 Naomi Osaka, the 2018 and 2020 U.S. Open champion. Then came No. 16 Angelique Kerber, the 2016 champ. That was followed by No. 5 Elina Svitolina and Sabalenka. “There’s no limit to what I can do. I’m just glad that immediately everything’s going well,” said Fernandez, who could give Canada its second U.S. Open women’s title in quick succession, following Bianca Andreescu’s triumph in 2019.
Raducanu and Fernandez are both considerably citizens of the planet . Raducanu was born in Toronto to a Chinese mother and Romanian father; the family moved to England when Emma was 2. Fernandez was born in Montreal to a Filipino Canadian mother and Ecuadorian father; the family moved to Florida after Leylah had success as a junior at age 12. Dad is additionally her coach, although he’s not together with her in NY , instead offering coaching tips in daily phone conversations. Perhaps he told his daughter to let Sabalenka make all the mistakes during a tiebreaker because that is what happened at the conclusion of the primary set. Sabalenka went up 2-0 then completely lost her way.
“I wouldn’t say that she did something,” Sabalenka said. “I would say that I destroy myself.” Every point won by Fernandez came courtesy of a miss by Sabalenka, including a flubbed overhead that landed several feet long and a double-fault handy over a group point. A backhand return into the internet — Sabalenka’s fourth miss when replying to a second serve within the tiebreaker — ended the set to roars from the gang . It was the type of lapse that contributed to Sabalenka never getting past the fourth round in her first 15 slam appearances.
In the second set, Sabalenka regained her form and Fernandez took a step back. Fernandez was two games from victory, serving at 4-all within the second, when she sailed a backhand beyond the baseline to urge broken. Sabalenka held at love, and on to a 3rd set, they went. And that, of course, was Fernandez’s time to shine. this is often only her seventh slam appearance — impossible as that’s to inform . “Now she’s like (a) top-10 player,” Sabalenka said. “We’ll see how good she is going to be within the future.” On Saturday, Raducanu and Fernandez will meet for the primary time during a tour-level match. Their most up-to-date encounter came within the Wimbledon junior tournament’s second round in 2018. Raducanu won that one. a touch quite three years later, they’ll play again, on a grander stage and with much, far more at stake.