London, 12 September 2021 (dpa/MIA) – Emma Raducanu completed her New York fairy tale and one of the most astonishing feats in sport by beating Leylah Fernandez to win the US Open.
Playing in just her second grand slam tournament, the 18-year-old from Kent won all 20 sets she played in qualifying and the main draw to become the first British woman to win a grand slam singles title since Virginia Wade lifted the Wimbledon trophy in 1977.
Raducanu was sitting her A Levels little more than three months ago having not played a competitive match for more than a year but she has burst onto the big stage like no-one before her.
Fernandez is only two months older having celebrated her 19th birthday earlier this week but the Canadian, who had claimed a host of big scalps, including defending champion Naomi Osaka, had no answer to the brilliance of Raducanu, who claimed a 6-4 6-3 victory in an hour and 51 minutes.
No qualifier had ever reached a slam final before while she is the first woman ever to win a title in as few as two tournaments, and the youngest since Maria Sharapova triumphed at Wimbledon in 2004.
The evening began with a ceremony to remember the victims of the September 11 attacks 20 years ago – before both finalists were born.
Raducanu was already the first player ever to play 10 singles matches at the same slam, and she quickly shut down the suggestion there might be any pressure on her going into the final.
It certainly did not appear that way as she swung freely through the first game, clinching it with a cross-court backhand struck so true that Fernandez did not move.
This was a very different scenario for the Canadian, who had been the big underdog in her previous four matches but here found herself as the higher ranked and more experienced player.
This quickly became an almighty battle, Raducanu breaking for 2-0 on her sixth chance only for Fernandez to take her fourth opportunity to hit straight back.
Every rally was hard fought, neither woman shirking an opportunity to strike the first blow but reading each other in a way none of the previous opponents had managed.
The Raducanu return has been arguably the shot of the tournament and two sizzlers brought up two set points in the 10th game.
Fernandez saved both, and a third that followed, but on the fourth Raducanu drilled a forehand down the line before raising her arms and letting out a huge ‘Come on’.
Raducanu has been more contained emotionally than her opponent throughout the fortnight but this was the most pressure she had been under and she knew what a huge moment it was in the match.
Fernandez knew, too, and Raducanu had three chances to break for 2-0 in the second but the Canadian dug in brilliantly to hold and then surged ahead with a break in another long game.
But back came Raducanu with more superb returning and a run of four games in a row took her to the brink of victory.
She held two match points at 5-2 but Fernandez was not finished, saving both and then forcing a break point as Raducanu attempted to serve it out.
To add to the tension, the British player was forced to take an injury timeout after grazing her leg sliding to the ball, much to the annoyance of Fernandez.
Raducanu saved the break point, and another, before bringing up her third match point. And this time she took it – with an ace.