Teenager Emma Raducanu wins U.S. Open, caps dominant run with straight-sets victory in final

By Stefan Bondy

NEW YORK — Only two months ago, Emma Raducanu pulled out of Wimbledon because of “breathing difficulties” during a match. Most assumed it was a panic attack. Either way, it left the impression Raducanu would have issues coping with pressure.

She then had to win qualifiers just to enter the U.S. Open, coming into Flushing ranked 150th in the world. Raducanu wasn’t given a second thought about winning the tournament.

And now, she’s the champion.

The 18-year-old Brit dominated her fellow teenage opponent Leylah Fernandez in Saturday’s final, 6-4, 6-3, punctuating a magical run through the bracket that nobody thought possible. Raducanu not only became the youngest Open champion since Serena Williams in 1999, she did it while winning every set through seven rounds. Her reward was a $2.5 million purse that was handed to her on the court by a sponsor representative.

It’s eight times her career earnings.

“It was an incredibly difficult match,” Raducanu said. “I hope that we play each other in many more tournaments and hopefully finals.”

Fernandez, whose own Cinderella story captivated the Open, was overwhelmed by Raducanu’s power and angles. Still, it felt like Fernandez had a chance until the very end of the two-hour match, if only because she overcame similar adversity and deficits in earlier rounds. There was also some drama in the final game, when Raducanu took a medical timeout to bandage a nasty cut on her leg sustained while sliding on the hardcourt for a shot attempt.

Fernandez complained to an official about the length of the timeout in such a pressurized moment, but the reasons were clearly legit with blood dripping from Raducanu’s knee to her shin. During the long break, Raducanu sipped her water bottle and concentrated on her breathing.

She faced Fernandez’s break point and was concerned about maintaining composure.

“I thought that would throw me off because I had to serve. I was just praying I wouldn’t double fault,” Raducanu said. “But we got through it. My process and my mindset helped in those tough times.”

On the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the final featured two women who weren’t even alive in 2001.

It was the most unlikely of finals, a matchup of unheralded teenagers who stepped into a void of women’s tennis and captured the adoration of the New York crowd.

They took very different paths to reach Sunday’s main event. Raducanu benefitted from a relatively easy bracket and made quick work of it. Her nerves were never really tested as the first qualifier, man or woman, to reach the Open final.

Fernandez had to topple titans to reach this stage, defeating two former Open champs — Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber — and two others in the top 5 — Aryna Sabalenka and Elina Svitolina. Fernandez needed three sets to advance in her previous four matches and became the darling of the crowd, which gave her an extended applause during the trophy ceremony.

“It’s incredible. I honestly don’t know what to say,” Fernandez said. “Today is going to be hard to recuperate from.

“I hope to be back here with a trophy — with the right trophy.”


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