Two teenagers wowed the world by reaching the final of tennis’ American Grand Slam, but in the end the younger of the two, Britain’s Emma Raducanu displayed the calm nerves and steely resolve of a champion to best Leylah Fernandez for the title.
Even as 19-year-old Fernandez, who seemed to run down every ball during the tournament, saved two match points in the second set, Raducanu, 18, persevered for the win, 6-4, 6-3.
Raducanu sacrificed some of the skin on her left knee in the effort as she slid on it in an attempt to run down a shot late in the second set. The injury prompted a medical timeout.
“I knew that Iâ€™d have to dig deep, and I fell somehow,” she said. “Just staying in the moment, focusing on what I had to do â€¦ just really helped.”
She recognized Virginia Wade, the last British woman to win Wimbledon, in 1977, who was in the audience.
Queen Elizabeth II congratulated Raducanu.
“It is a remarkable achievement at such a young age, and is testament to your hard work and dedication,” she said in a statement addressed to the champ. “I have no doubt your outstanding performance, and that of your opponent, Leylah Fernandez, will inspire the next generation of tennis players.”
U.S. Open organizers said two teenagers haven’t faced off in a final at the New York tournament since 1999.
The two women rocked the tennis world in their climb to the final at Flushing Meadow. Raducanu was ranked 150th. Fernandez, from Canada, was ranked 73rd and just turned 19 Monday. Neither was seeded.
Raducanu became the first qualifier in the professional era to win a Grand Slam tournament. She had to win 10 matches, including three to qualify for the main draw, to take the title Saturday. She didn’t drop one set the whole time. “I’ve just been taking care of each day,” Raducanu said Friday.
Both women are of Asian descent, and Fernandez is also Latina. Together they had much of the world cheering while also wondering which finalist they should favor on a warm New York afternoon.
Fernandez lost the title match, but she wisely aimed for the hearts of U.S. Open fans, who can be raucous during big matches at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
“I just want to say I hope I can be as strong and resilient as New York has been the past 20 years,” she said, referring to the anniversary of 9/11.
“Thank you for cheering for me,” Fernandez said. “I love you, New York, and hope to see you next year.”
The Associated Press contributed.