19-year-old Canadian Leylah Fernandez versus the 18-year-old British player Emma Raducanu in the US Open Women’s singles final. To say it’s an unlikely scenario is an understatement. The Men’s final will be contested between Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev, the number one versus the number two seed. Yet in the Women’s we are talking about Fernandez, world number 73 vs Emma Raducanu, the world number 150. It’s almost unimaginable.
Which means, on paper, Fernandez is the favourite. She’s also beaten four high seeds in consecutive matches. But they’ve each been three-set nailbiters and one would think she must be mentally exhausted. Raducanu, despite having had to qualify, hasn’t lost a single set throughout and will surely be the fresher of the two.
As complete underdogs they’ve both traded on the nerves of their far more experienced opponents. The second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka more or less imploded in her final service game with a couple of wild double faults and splayed groundshots, finally handing the semi-final to Fernandez. Against Raducanu in the other semis, Maria Sakkari repeatedly sent forehands sailing over the baseline, her elbow tight with nerves.
So it’ll be fascinating to see who deals better with the situation in the final. Will it be the left-handed Canadian or the right-handed Brit? A leftie vs rightie usually makes for an interesting contest and this could be an intriguing future rivalry – think Navratilova vs Evert, Lendl vs Connors, Borg vs McEnroe. The swinging leftie serve can be a nightmare for opponents but Raducanu has the benefit of a left-handed coach in Andrew Richardson, so she will have had plenty of practice.
Brits are rubbing their eyes in disbelief at the rise and rise of Emma Raducanu. Just a few months ago, prior to Wimbledon, she was ranked 343 in the world. If she loses in the final, she will be ranked number 32. Should she win, she is projected to reach number 23 and guaranteed a seeding at the Aussie Open in January. No more qualifying or scrabbling around at minor tournaments for Emma Raducanu.
And consider some of these statistics. Emma Raducanu is the:
- first qualifier, male or female, to reach a Grand Slam final
- youngest British Grand Slam finalist in 62 years
- first British woman to reach a Grand Slam final in 44 years
- and the first British woman to reach a US Open final in 53 years.
One wonders when she’ll wake up to the enormity of what she’s achieving. In the meantime, it’s one hell of a story.