US Open 2021 – The 3 keys to Emma Raducanu’s victory over Leylah Fernandez

Written by on September 11, 2021

NEW YORK — No one knew what to expect out of this US Open all-teen women’s final between Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez.

The Open has seen two teens battle it out for the championship before. The last time was in 1999 when a then-17-year-old Serena Williams stopped an 18-year-old Martina Hingis.

But two unseeded players making it all the way to a major final had never happened — on the men’s or women’s side — until now.

On top of that, the tennis world is still getting to know Fernandez and Raducanu. On the biggest stage they’ve ever performed on, the teens showed flashes of why women’s tennis has new blood.

Raducanu and Fernandez displayed some of the reasons they turned this fortnight into their own party. In their first meeting as pros, Raducanu became the first qualifier to win a major in tennis history, winning 6-4, 6-3 to stop Fernandez’s incredible run.

The match featured some big-hitting, thoughtful shots and there was even blood drawn with Raducanu scraping her left knee on a slide.

While Fernandez did not play her best match, she fought to the end. Raducanu, who beat Fernandez in straight sets in the second round of the 2018 Wimbledon girls’ singles, was more aggressive and solid. Her swagger and confidence rarely wavered as has been the case all tournament long.

And now, Raducanu is women’s tennis’ newest, and perhaps most unlikely, major champion.

Fresh Emma

Fernandez got here by beating No. 3 Naomi Osaka, No. 16 Angelique Kerber, No. 5 Elina Svitolina and No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka all in three-setters.

While Raducanu had to come through qualifiers to get into the main draw, she didn’t lose a set on her way to the final and only had to face two double-digit seeds to get here. In fact, Raducanu didn’t lose more than four games in any of her sets in this Open.

She also didn’t play a ton of long points before this final. She was fresher and took advantage.

From the start, Raducanu was aggressive, keeping Fernandez on the defensive. She took advantage of many of Fernandez’s missed shots. Fernandez still fought to the end. If she was feeling any fatigue from her incredible run — at one point late in the match, her family implored her to smile and show more emotion as she was fighting to get back in the match. She showed plenty of heart.

Leylah’s serve

Fernandez has so much potential, so much fight, moxie, poise and counter-punching. She is also smart. But she can still improve on her service game. She served 58 percent on her first serve in the match, and she needs to make it more of a weapon.

Raducanu had 18 break-point opportunities, converting four of them. That was a big difference in this match. On the other side, Fernandez only saw nine break-point chances and converted just two of them.

Raducanu got 69 percent of her first serves in and won 67 percent of her first serves.

First blood

The match had some late drama. As Fernandez was mounting a comeback and had a break point in the ninth game while down 3-5, Raducanu scraped her left knee on the hard court while trying to slide as she attempted to run down a shot. With blood trickling down her knee, Raducanu received a medical timeout. Fernandez didn’t seem pleased with the three-minute break coming at an inopportune time for her, having an animated conversation with a tournament official near Raducanu, who winced as she had her cut treated.

After the stoppage, Fernandez sent a forehand long to squander the break point. Raducanu would later win the match with an ace out wide. The two teens hugged it out at the handshake as Fernandez congratulated the newest US Open women’s champion.

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