Monday, October 18, 2021

Leylah Fernandez, 19, and Emma Raducanu, 18, unexpected US Open final

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Leylah Fernandez, in the US Open semi-final against Aryna Sabalenka on September 9.

Jennifer Brady-Naomi Osaka in the Australian Open final, Barbora Krejcikova-Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova for that of Roland-Garros and Ashleigh Barty-Karolina Pliskova at Wimbledon. The year 2021 will have reserved its share of varied posters in Grand Slam tournaments, in a women’s tennis circuit struggling to find a patron since Serena Williams left her throne in 2017.

But the next WTA star may be on the lookout for the US Open final, one of the most unlikely in history. On Saturday, September 11, it will pit two players never seen at this height, or even at any other altitude approaching it from near or far.

At just 19 years old, the Canadian Leylah Fernandez (73e) will not even be the earliest on court Arthur Ashe as she will face Britain’s Emma Raducanu (18, 150e), youngest Grand Slam finalist since Maria Sharapova, in 2004 at Wimbledon.

Earliness record

By scattering Maria Sakkari in the semifinals (6-1, 6-4), Emma Raducanu, still 366th in the world in June, did not simply beat a record of precocity. She also became the first player from qualifying to reach the US Open final, as her “ plane tickets were already booked for the end of qualifying She had amused herself before the meeting.

All without losing a single set, and giving the impression of being on the circuit for years, yet she was only playing her second Grand Slam tournament (eighth finalist at Wimbledon this year).

Opposite, Leylah Fernandez experienced much more difficulties to reach the final. After two well-controlled first laps, the left-hander successively dismissed defending champion Naomi Osaka, former world number 1 Angelique Kerber, Elina Svitolina (5e) and finally Aryna Sabalenka (2e) in the semi-finals, each time after a three-set bout.

I have no idea how I did it. It’s years and years of work, tears, blood and sacrifice “Exclaimed the Canadian prodigy just after qualifying.

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When you see her working you understand why she goes the distance », Notes Nathalie Tauziat, coach with the Canadian Fed Cup team. ” I was very impressed with his investment during a training camp 4-5 years ago. Work always pays off, and Leylah works a lot.

The former world third and finalist at Wimbledon 1998 sees many similarities between the two players. ” They both have a very positive attitude on the court and are very mature, especially considering their ages. They have fun in matches and we see that they love tennis. Both take point by point and keep the same state of mind whether they win it or not.

I’m out of qualifying so I have no pressure », Explained Emma Raducanu, just after her victory against Maria Sakkari. A mixture of confidence and recklessness that she shares with her future opponent, which brings a breath of fresh air to the American courts.

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The pressure of a first

Emma Raducanu in the US Open semi-final against Maria Sakkari on September 9.

It remains to be seen who of the Briton or the Canadian will manage to better manage the fatigue and the pressure of a first Grand Slam final, all on the biggest court in the world.

At Wimbledon, Emma Raducanu abandoned her round of 16 against Australian Ajla Tomljanovic (6-4, 3-0), admitting to having ” been overtaken by the stake “And starting” to breathe heavily and feel dizzy »After the first set. An unpleasant memory that the Briton seems to have erased since with winning points.

For Nathalie Tauziat, Leylah Fernandez leaves all the same with a small head start ” because she has a little more experience “. But she judges that the essential is not there. ” We see with these two players that sport can be a place where we can flourish. I hope they will keep that and not be too exposed afterwards.

Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez will be able to draw inspiration from the last two players under 20 who faced each other in a Grand Slam final in 1999 at the US Open: Martina Hingis and a certain Serena Williams. They have accumulated 28 Majors, including 23 for Williams.

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