Emma Raducanu won the 2021 US Open women’s singles title, and becomes the first British woman to win a Grand Slam title since Virginia Wade in 1977.
The 18-year-old Brit took out the Canadian teenager, Leylah Fernandez in straight sets 6-4 6-3 in one hour and 51 minutes.
Raducanu’s win is historic. She is the first qualifier — male or female — to ever win a Grand Slam title. She also becomes the youngest women’s major champion since 17-year-old Maria Sharapova won her 2004 Wimbledon crown.
This is Raducanu’s second main draw appearance at a major, which would be the Open era record for the fewest attempts required by any woman to win her first championship.
Raducanu said in an on-court interview: “Thank you all for making me feel so at home, you’ve really spurned me on at some really difficult moments. I hope me and Leylah put on a good performance for you.
The score might make it look one sided, but the match was anything but. In a hard-fought first set, Raducanu broke Fernandez early to take the lead 2-0, but got broken immediately after to even out the match 2-2.
Both the power players played long baseline games, pushing each other to break points and deuce several times in the first set. At 5-4 with Fernandez serving, Raducanu set up two set points, and after an eight-minute game, took the first set 6-4.
Fernandez came out strong in the second set, breaking Raducanu for the first time to take the lead in, 2-1. But, Raducanu wasted no time, immediately following it up by breaking Fernandez’s serve for a 3-2 lead.
Raducanu came out to serve for the championship, but Fernandez didn’t give up, going up 40-30, before succumbing to her deep first serve.
“The match point, I don’t think I made one serve that wide in the whole match, to be honest,” Raducanu said in the post-match press conference.” I was, like, If I’m going to make it, this is going to be the time. I literally drove my legs up to that ball toss like never before.
“Yeah, I landed it. Just disbelief, trying to take everything in, all the moment.”
The match was not devoid of controversy: When Fernandez led 40-30 at 3-5 in the second set, Raducanu took a medical timeout to treat a cut on her knee. The crowd, which was largely supportive of both the teenagers, was riled up, some fans even starting to boo the break.
“I didn’t actually want to stop because I thought it would disrupt my rhythm, seeing as I was going to be serving 30-40, and to have such a long break after a point. … But I couldn’t play on. I wasn’t allowed to because my knee was gushing with blood,” Raducanu said.
“The chair umpire said I needed to get it treated right away. I guess I just went over and was really trying to think what my patterns of play were going to be, what I was going to try to execute. Yeah, going out there facing a breakpoint after a two-, three-minute disruption isn’t easy. I think I managed for sure to really pull off the clutch plays when I needed to.”
After falling and cutting her knee, Raducanu said she was nervous that was going to throw her game off and said she was praying not to double fault while serving for the championship.
Raducanu had the edge throughout the match. She was patient and waited to pick her spots. She also rarely missed balls, running Fernandez around the court every chance she could get.
This might be the beginning of a long and exciting rivalry between Fernandez and Raducanu. “I hope we play each other in many more tournaments and hopefully finals,” Raducanu said.
Raducanu’s rise to the top of the US Open is meteoric. She started Wimbledon in June 2021 ranked World No. 338. She reached the Round of 16 in Wimbledon.
In New York, she played three qualifiers to reach the main draw. Then, she ended up dominating the tournament, beating top players like Sara Sorribes Tormo, Maria Sakkari and Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic.
“At the beginning of the grass courts, I was coming fresh off my exams — I had three weeks to practice before my first tournament,” Raducanu said. “I just built up every single match, every single win, I thought Wimbledon was such an incredible experience. Fourth round, second week, I couldn’t believe it. I thought, what a great achievement.
“I was still hungry. I was working hard after the grass. I didn’t have much time off. Then straight back out here on the States. With each match and tournament and week, I think I’ve really built in terms of confidence, in terms of my game, in terms of my ball striking. Everything came together today. Yeah, I think to pull off some of the shots I did in the big moments when I really needed it was just an accumulation of everything I’ve learnt in the past five weeks.”
With this victory, she will finish her miraculous two-month run ranked World No. 23.
Through it all, Raducanu said she didn’t feel any pressure.
“I’m just having a free swing as anything that comes my way,” she said. “That’s how I faced every match here in the States. Yeah, it got me this trophy.”