Sunday, June 16, 2024

History Made at the Grand Slam

Emma Raducanu made history as she was crowned the 2021 US Open champion to become the first British woman to clinch a Grand Slam singles title for 44 years.

The 18-year-old completed a truly remarkable sporting triumph as she overcame fellow teenager Leylah Fernandez of Canada, 6-4 6-3, in a very memorable showpiece final at Flushing Meadows. Raducanu, the first qualifier in the Open era to reach a Grand Slam final, was not remotely fazed by the big occasion and held her composure, despite late drama, to make history in becoming the first British woman to win the US Open singles title for 53 years.

The irrepressible Brit got off to a stunning start as she broke serve at the first opportunity in the second game after a pulsating extended deuce in front of a raucous crowd inside Arthur Ashe. But the unseeded Fernandez was equally impressive as she responded in electrifying fashion to break straight back and level up with a dazzling array of groundstrokes. The first all-teenage final since Serena Williams v Martina Hingis in 1999 could not have been a higher standard right from the outset as the pair fearlessly traded blows from the back of the court. The opening set was on a knife-edge throughout but a flashing forehand winner from Raducanu created the breakthrough as she ruthlessly capitalised on her fourth set point on the Fernandez serve.

Having seized her moment to strike and take the opener, Raducanu was immediately put under immense pressure in the second set as Fernandez returned from a sideline break with a typically doughty resolve. The Canadian world number 73 brushed aside a series of leading players en route – taking out defending champion Naomi Osaka, fifth seed Elina Svitolina, world number two Aryna Sabalenka and three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber – and she responded admirably with a gutsy break at the start of the second set.

Raducanu did not drop a single set throughout the tournament, going right back to the qualifiers, and she hit straight back with a sublime backhand winner closing out an immediate break back to ensure Fernandez could not level up the match.
The best was yet to come: sections of Arthur Ashe Stadium gave the Brit a standing ovation as she zipped to her right and unleashed an outrageous forehand winner to break once again and seize the ascendancy to lead 4-2 with Fernandez in disbelief.
With the composure and poise for which she is now renowned, Raducanu proceeded to nervelessly close out one of the most incredible Grand Slam triumphs in memory to make history on the biggest stage in the sport, despite late drama when she slipped and required medical attention in the final game.

“First of all, I really want to congratulate Leylah and her team, she played some incredible tennis and has beaten some of the top players in the world,” Raducanu said in her victory speech. “The level was extremely high and I hope we play each other in many more tournaments and hopefully finals. As for this three weeks in New York, I would say having such a supportive team, the LTA, my agent, and everyone back home watching on TV, thank you so much for your support over the years. “Thank you for making me feel so at home from my first qualifying match, you have spurred me on in some difficult moments and I hope me and Leylah put on a good match today. Leylah is always going to play great tennis and fight, that is why she is in the final, I knew I would have to dig deep. “I fell somehow and thought that would throw me off balance – I was praying not for a double fault! We got through it and focused on the process and mindset, that really helped in those tough times.

“It shows the future of women’s tennis and depth of the game is so great, every player in the draw has a shot at winning any tournament, I hope the next generation can follow in the steps of some of the legends, for example Billie Jean right here. It means so much to have Virginia Wade here and also Tim Henman, British icons and for me to follow in their footsteps… it gave me the belief I could do it.”
Fernandez said: “It is incredible. I have no idea what to say. Today is going to be hard but Emma played amazing. Congratulations. I am very proud of myself and having the New York crowd has been amazing. Thank you so much New York. Thank you everyone.

“I know on this day it was especially hard for New York and everyone around the US. I hope I can be as strong and resilient as New York has been the last 20 years. I love you New York and hope to see you next year.” It is surely only the start for the British teenager in what is already a distinguished career as she celebrated a quite astonishing journey from qualifier to Grand Slam champion.

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