18-Year-Old Emma Raducanu Defeats Leylah Fernandez to Win 2021 US Open

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 11, 2021

Emma Raducanu, of Britain, reacts after scoring a point against Leylah Fernandez, of Canada, during the women's singles final of the US Open tennis championships, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

In 2020, Emma Raducanu didn't play outside Great Britain because her parents feared for her safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A year later, she's a Grand Slam champion.

Raducanu defeated Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 6-3 to capture the 2021 U.S. Open. The 18-year-old is the youngest major champion since Maria Sharapova won the 2004 Wimbledon Championship.

Tennis Canada @TennisCanada

Nice moment as Leylah Fernandez congratulates Emma Raducanu after the match. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/USOpen?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#USOpen</a> <a href="https://t.co/QaUH6cPQ90">pic.twitter.com/QaUH6cPQ90</a>

Saturday was the youngest U.S. Open final since Serena Williams and Martina Hingis went head-to-head in 1999.

Raducanu ranks as one of the most surprising winners in the event's history. She navigated through the field as the 31st-ranked qualifier before dominating over the last two weeks in Queens, New York.

Despite being the lower-ranked player in every match she played in the event, Raducanu never lost a set. She took advantage of a somewhat easy slate of opponents as upsets allowed her to go through the first four rounds without facing a seeded opponent.

However, when she did wind up going against Belinda Bencic and Maria Sakkari to reach the final, she did not miss a beat.

Fernandez had a far tougher road, taking down Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber, Elina Svitolina and Aryna Sabalenka to get to the final. As the match wore on, it was apparent how much the arduous path took out of her.

The pair of rising stars traded points in a highly competitive back-and-forth first set that took nearly an hour before Raducanu broke at 4-4 and then closed things out the following game. Fernandez roared back with a break of her own early in the second set, but Raducanu broke back twice and carried her own service to take a stranglehold on the match at 5-2.

A fearless Fernandez took the next game and nearly broke back to get the set on serve, but Raducanu closed out a back-and-forth 19th game after a brief medical timeout to attend to a bloodied leg.

The match served as a coming-out party for two young women few outside the biggest tennis hardcores had heard of before these last two weeks.

While the absence of Serena Williams and some of the sport's biggest names may have kept away the casual fan, those who tuned in Saturday saw the type of shot-making that could see Raducanu and Fernandez become two of the biggest faces in tennis.