This is unbelievable. I’m still in disbelief at the events that unfolded on Saturday night as Emma Raducanu defeated Leylah Fernandez, 6-4 6-3 in Saturday’s all-teen final to win the 2021 US Open. I’m back from a week away and have so much to catch up on the blog from the last week. I’m going to take a few steps back and monologue my thoughts before addressing the final. Stay with me 😂.
Even with the swirling vortex of recency bias, this has been one of the most exciting Slams I can remember since I started following tennis religiously about ten years ago. There have been plenty of unexpected women’s finals and surprise champions. Definitely nothing of this magnitude though and a Slam final between Leylah Fernandez against Emma Raducanu. The world number 73 against the world number 150.
Fernandez had never previously made it to the second week of a Slam. I have to admit she’d kind of dropped off my radar after a quiet six months. Since winning her first WTA title in Monterrey in March, Fernandez hadn’t won back-to-back matches in a WTA main draw and had posted a 9-11 W-L record.
Fernandez’s route to the final was extraordinary. Ana Konjuh, Kaia Kanepi, Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber, Elina Svitolina and Aryna Sabalenka. When I did my Draw Challenge, Konjuh was an instant pick in that first round match. I was quite confident of Konjuh having a run and didn’t even consider picking Fernandez 🤦♂️.
The first two rounds of Konjuh and Kanepi were tough. Then to beat Osaka, Kerber, Svitolina and Sabalenka. That’s two of the biggest hitters, world number two and world number three, and two of the best counter punchers on tour. And all in three sets! And the first two matches from a set and a break down! Seriously, what an incredible run. I can’t throw enough superlatives at it.
I kept thinking Leylah would run out of steam. I thought she had a good shot against Svitolina in the quarter-finals but I honestly thought Kerber would be too strong in the fourth round and Sabalenka would have too much weaponry in the semi-finals. And all these matches were super entertaining to watch. As it stands (still so many night matches to catch up on!!!) Fernandez-Kerber is my match of the tournament. The end of the second set was bloody brilliant.
Fernandez was absolutely fearless. Her mental strength to knock off all these champions in some really tight moments was really quite surprising. Hugeee fan of that leftie forehand! Reminds me of Lucie! I love how Fernandez captured the imagination of the crowd and harnessed their energy.
There are so many stats around Raducanu’s run. The stat that moves me – Raducanu is the FIRST qualifier in the Open Era to reach a Slam final. No one has done this before! Raducanu’s route to the final wasn’t nearly as brutal as Fernandez in terms of the calibre of players she faced. However she has navigated her draw with a ruthless efficiency. No sets dropped is a feat. I think Raducanu’s last four opponents to the final all played… well, not very well! Rogers made so many errors in the fourth round. Bencic looked so tight in their quarter-final. I didn’t see the semi-final with Sakkari but I don’t think I need to after listening to Sakkari’s press conference after the match. Yes, they didn’t play well, but I think a lot of that is down to what Raducanu was doing from her side of the net.
I think the surprise factor has certainly helped Raducanu in that she’s still very much an unknown quantity and few have seen her play. And perhaps the pressure on her opponents which no one has seemingly been able to handle. No one wants to lose to an 18 year old. I still remember Osaka made a comment along these lines after losing to Coco Gauff at last year’s Australian Open.
The most impressive aspect of Raducanu’s game has been her composure. As her opponents have struggled to find their games, Raducanu has been absolutely relentless in closing out these matches and coming through with flying colours in the key moments. The Brit was, like Fernandez, bold, taking the ball early and with full belief in her shots. I guess the strength in her game is that she doesn’t appear to have an obvious weakness to target. Well, her opponents didn’t manage to find it!
A Fernandez-Raducanu final was a wild possibility back at the start of the second week. As the contenders tumbled, the wild possibility became a rather fitting ending to a bonkers US Open. And what a final it was. I was in awe of these two because it was a great match and in my opinion, the best Slam final of 2021 in terms of quality. There was a wonderful ebb-and-flow to the match.
A few takeaways from the final. I thought Raducanu’s serve was more effective and the serve out wide into Fernandez’s backhand set up the one-two punch on many occasions. Raducanu’s backhand has appeared to be the stronger wing but it was the forehand that really impressed in this match. Raducanu was taking the ball early, as she has done all tournament, and she handled everything that Fernandez threw at her. Notably her timing on the high balls that Fernandez generated was impeccable.
Of course there had to be some drama at the end! In what would be the final game, Raducanu slid out wide to retrieve a cracking Fernandez shot and cut her leg on the court surface. Raducanu had to take a medical time-out serving for the Championship at *30-40. Fernandez appeared to argue the case with the supervisor. Just a word on this in case anyone questions this. The timing was unfortunate but i’m sure it’s a rule that a player cannot continue while bleeding. There’s no way Raducanu could have carried on it with untreated. Raducanu said in her press conference that she wanted to continue and didn’t want to halt momentum. Fernandez said afterwards that she didn’t really know what was happening on Emma’s side and that she got caught up in the heat in the moment.
Raducanu saved two break points and eventually served out the win with an ace. AN ACE!!! Just unbelievable. Unbelievable. I keep repeating over and over again to anyone who will listen to me that this is unbelievable. 10 wins in a row, didn’t drop more than five games in any of the sets she played. The composure to close out your first Slam with so little experience on the tour. Unprecedented. A truly historic moment. Nailed on for SPOTY which is pretty amazing in an Olympic year.
Raducanu has been all over the news in the UK these past few days and I think the attention will continue to multiply. There was even a statement from the Queen who congratulated Emma after the win 😂. Amazon Prime have the rights to the US Open in the UK. The match ended up on free-to-air as Channel 4 agreed a deal with Amazon Prime to stream their coverage. Unprecedented again!
It’s been a crazy, crazy time for Emma. It makes me rather wary to be honest considering the time we live in with social media. I hope that she has a strong support network around to handle all the attention. It’s overwhelming just thinking about it.
A word for Fernandez who had a remarkable run and has so much to be proud of. Sorry. More superlatives 😂. Loved her speech at the end and very brave to address 9/11 and she spoke beautifully. I’m fascinated, fascinated beyond fascinated, to see how Leylah and Emma can build on this tournament. I think it’s going to be very tough with so many more eyes focused on their future matches. I hope everyone gives them time and space. I will try my best not to go overboard on the hype train.
Finally, what a Slam. This will live long in the memory. I’ll be watching back all the matches that I missed over the next week as there were so many contenders for match of the year.
Emma Raducanu is the 2021 US Open champion. Nah it still hasn’t sunk in and I don’t think it will for a while…
18 thoughts on “Emma Raducanu wins the US Open”
100% agree – best GS in a loooong time. I absolutely loved watching and I couldn’t believe the quality of yesterday’s final. Truly amazing.
I hope they will both be very consistent in the future! However, I like Raduncu’s game more – it just seems so effortless.
Ha! That second set against Kerber is worth mentioning again! That was when she fully got me on board. Something interesting was happening with Leylah. Took me back to Ostapenko at the french, Naomi’s first US open, Swiatek’s french run, even some of Krajcikova, some self belief in what you can do….
Honestly, I was actually expecting Sabalenka to play like Radacuna did against Leylah, even play through her much more. But, such has been Sabalenka’s composure sometimes, during periods of that match, I thought she was the younger, angsty teen and not Leyla. Memories of Sabine Lisicki, so much physicality and punch, but always somehow tripping up in the end. Aryna, in my view, is an even better athlete.
Commiserations to Fernandez, she’s still a winner in my book. I can’t say more than has already been spoken about Emma. Her mental adjustment from that Wimbledon crash against Anya Tomljanovic to here, is everything. Absolutely loved it!
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Same. It was the Kerber match for me too. I like the similarity with Ostapenko as her RG run was all three setters at the end. Same feeling also with Sabalenka. That was a shocker of a final game that she played against Fernandez. It’s been such an enjoyable Slam!
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Thanks for this.
This may not be a popular view, but I wanted Fernandez to win. But the victory was very well deserved, of course.
The skills, resilience and composure these two bring to the court, makes me wonder why other players haven’t done it in the same way, so young, in the past.
And the composure, especially in Raducanu, I find a bit baffling. Can’t work out why she seems completely unfazed by the whole thing.
I think the closing minutes, and to some extent the match, were marred by the time out. Not Raducanu’s responsibility, but I think nearly five minutes to sort out a small cut is too much, especially at break back point, and is unfair on the opponent.
Thanks for the comment, David. Intrigued to see how Raducanu manages pressure in the future because things will change going forward. The MTO was very unfortunate timing for Fernandez but it had to be treated. I noticed it was still bleeding during the trophy ceremony!
The best U.S. Open that I have ever watched. It felt like a breath of fresh air to have these two teenagers in the final with their attitude and style of play. A 3rd set might have made it a classic imho. Going to be interesting to see how they both progress. I hope that this will not be a one-off for both of them.
I also wanted Fernandez to win but that’s not because I dislike Raducanu in any way who is a charming young woman and is a joy to watch with her style of play. I thought that Fernandez had experienced a tougher route to the final and had shown real grit and determination to get there and is also a joy to watch so maybe she slightly deserved the title more.
Many congrats to Raducanu who I expect to be a great role model for tennis. I underestimated her. I agree with James that her four opponents before the final did not play well and that her composure was the most impressive part of her game. I am not convinced that she is going to be a superstar as some are predicting. Time will tell. I am not looking forward to all the hype and publicity that the British media will create about her at Wimbledon which is my favourite Grand Slam. I will find it annoying and I fail to see how it will help her.
Fernandez’s more difficult route is the most important reason why I wanted her to win. But still pretty happy with the result.
The standard of play from these two during the tournament was so good that if it was in a film I’d turn it off for being too unbelievable.
Very excited about the future of women’s tennis with these two on the scene. Not that there’s anything wrong with the rest, but you know what I mean.
Trying to get Wimbledon tickets for next year just got harder x 100 😂. Wimbledon will no doubt be wild next year. Leylah’s route through the draw was really quite something. Can’t remember a tougher quartet than Osaka, Kerber, Svitolina and Sabalenka, and in the manner she won those matches!
An incredible end to an incredible tournament. I have to admit that I was rooting for Fernandez because her route to the final was SO impressive (no disrespect to Radacanu – you can only play who you’re drawn against).
I did see an interesting stat: Radacanu has become a Grand Slam champion and yet she hasn’t won a single match at WTA tour level. That’s craaaazy!
I’m hoping for more history this evening… for Novak to win and complete the calendar Slam.
There are so many crazy stats about Raducanu!
I agree with James; I’m still struggling to take in Emma’s victory as well, it’s absolutely ridiculous. She won ten matches in a row without dropping a set, and all at the age of just 18 with so little experience of big tournaments under her belt (or indeed of any other tournaments at WTA level), and having not long both passed her driving test and gotten top grades in her “A” levels. As Andrew said, she hadn’t even won a match at WTA level before.
Apparently the other members of her tennis club in Kent who were interviewed after her win and had seen her play over the years knew she was something special, but even they didn’t think she would win a big tournament (never mind a grand slam) so soon.
For those who say she didn’t meet any serious opposition on her way to the final, Sara Sorribes Tormo (who’s not an easy opponent) won only one game against her and Belinda’s never an easy opponent either. Shelby admitted that she had an off-day because it had taken so much out of her to beat Ash Barty.
As for the particular strength she has in her game, she’s demonstrated an almost Serena-like ability to “suss out” her opponents in real time; to divine in the course of playing them what their weaknesses are and what strategy they don’t want her to adopt, and then do it.
I agree with letsplay, commiserations are due to Leylah as well who had such a hard fight to get to her first grand slam final; it must have been tough to then lose it. Let’s hope it isn’t her last (and I don’t think it will be).
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It still hasn’t sunk in!
Excellent final in Moscow with a lot of high quality rallies, it’s a pity one of the players had to lose it. Well done Anett anyway. Ekaterina was a set and 4-0 up at one point but couldn’t close the match out, and Anett raised her game and took control of the second set and eventually the match. Jelena Ostapenko and Katerina Siniakova got the doubles title.
Ann Li won the title in Tenerife, beating Camila Osorio 6-1, 6-4.
I also enjoyed the Moscow final. Ekaterina looked tense throughout the match and was also suffering with a tender hip and she should have won but got the jitters when it mattered. Anett has improved with her new coach and I am liking her positive style of play and attitude. She also seems to be a genuine person and did not overdo the celebrations when she won out of respect for her opponent etc. If she continues to improve then she might have a chance of winning a GS next year with a good draw and a bit of luck.
Yeah. I’m disappointed that Emma’s just gone out of the Transylvania Open – her versus Simona in Romania (Emma of course is half-Romanian herself) would have been a dream match. Well done Marta (Kostyuk) anyway.
Looks like a great couple of semifinals in Guadalajara – the first time two Spanish women have played at the knockout stage of the WTA finals, and as far as I know the first time anyone from Greece or Estonia has either. I don’t have a strong idea about who’s going to win the final but if I had to pick anyone it would be Anett.
Thanks for the comment, Graham. Muguruza prevailed in the end who seemed at home in Guadalajara. Glad to see that the tournament was a success and they had great crowds, especially for the night matches. Personally, I struggled to get excited about the Finals and it’s been this case for a few years now. I think it’s a case of tennis fatigue!