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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Friday September 10, 2021


On Thursday night in New York, just about three hours after Leylah Fernandez became the youngest player to reach a Grand Slam final, British Qualifier Emma Raducanu became the youngest player to reach a Grand Slam final in… three hours.

Tennis Express

Teenagers have exploded onto the scene at this year’s US Open, with both Fernandez, who defeated No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka, 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-4, and Raducanu, who took out 17th-seeded Maria Sakkari 6-1, 6-4, advancing to the first Grand Slam final featuring two teenagers since 17-year-old Serena Williams defeated 18-year-old Martina Hingis for the title in 1999.

But this year feels different. 22 years ago, Williams and Hingis were already well established on the tour. This week at Flushing Meadows Raducanu, ranked 150 and Fernandez, ranked 73, were not considered as contenders in a stacked field that featured six former US Open champions and 13 former Grand Slam champions.


But Raducanu, who has yet to drop a set and is the first qualifier – male or female – to ever reach a Grand Slam final, and Fernandez, who has reeled off three Top-5 wins and won four consecutive three setters, have gone above and beyond, completely captivating crowds in a US Open that has given new meaning to the phrase wide open.

Raducanu has dropped just 27 games in her six matches and made short work of Sakkari, who was far from her best on Thursday.

“I wasn't myself on court,” Sakkari said. “Yeah, I couldn't make many balls. I gave her so many chances. Didn't even, like, push her with my game. She found everything pretty easy from my side. But credit to her. She took her chances.”

Sakkari gave credit to the teens, both of whom have played with moxie, grit and a surprising ability to seize the moment and make it their own in New York.


“I mean, it's huge what she has accomplished,” she said. “They are both young. They play fearless. They have nothing to lose playing against us. But as I said I have to give credit to both of them, both of the young girls, that they take their chances. They're out there fighting for that title. Very well done to both for getting here.”

Raducanu jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the opening set and closed it, 6-1. In the second set Sakkari showed signs of life after falling behind by a break at 2-1. She rallied from 0-40 down to hold for 3-4, but could not manage a break against the red-hot teen, who won the final four points to clinch her victory in one hour and 24 minutes.

Raducanu was ranked 338 before Wimbledon before reaching the fourth round, and entered the US Open qualifying carrying a ranking of 150. Who knew that she’d be able to muster this type of thrilling encore to a very impressive Wimbledon, but here she is, ready to gun for a major title against a player who has just a smidge more experience than her on this stage.

Raducanu is making her second Grand Slam appearance; Fernandez her seventh.

One has to assume that experience won’t be a factor when they meet on Saturday in prime time. The winner will be the one that steps in and makes the most of this improbable opportunity – each is well-versed in that skill this week.

 

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