(September 9, 2021)FLUSHING MEADOWS, New York – I t will be an all-teen US Open final for the women on Saturday. Nineteen-year-old Canadian Leylah Fernandez , ranked 73rd reached her first US Open final after beating second seed Aryna Sabalenka 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-4 on Thursday night. She knocked out a total of 3 Top 5 players to advance to the final – No. 3 Naomi Osaka, No. 5 Elina Svitolina and No. 2 Sabalenka.
British 18-year-old No. 150 Emma Raducanu became the first-ever qualifier to make a major final when she beat No. 17 seed Maria Sakkari 6-1, 6-4 in the second night match on Thursday night.
“It will be the first all-teen final at the since 1999, before either player was born, when a 17-year-old Serena Williams beat an 18-year-old Martina Hingis at the US Open.
In the first set Fernandez rallied from 1-4 down, saved a set point in the 12th game and was down 2-0 in the tiebreak but pulled through to win the set 7-6(3).
Sabalenka turned things around in the second set, going up an early break, getting broken but breaking again to level the match at one set all.
Fernandez took a 4-2 lead in the third set but Sabalenka broke back to get back on serve. Serving at 4-5 to stay in the match, the Belarusian collapsed by serving three double-faults and hitting the ball out to give the Canadian the win,
Fernandez, playing in just her seventh major tournament, becomes the third Canadian woman to reach the final two of a major tournament.
“That’s years and years and years of hard work and tears and blood,” she said on-court. “Everything. On court, off court. Sacrifices.”
“I’m a little bit disappointed about this match because, as I said, I had a lot of opportunities and I didn’t use it,” said Sabalenka,
“Well, this is life. If you’re not using your opportunities, someone else will use it. This is what happened today.
“I will try to improve it. I will keep working and fighting, and I believe that one day it will come.”
“Seems like in these two weeks, everything working well for her. Like this is nothing to lose. People are here supporting her like she’s kind of on the top of the situation. “She’s staying, like, on the baseline, hitting I would say sometimes crazy shots and everything is going in. I would say, like, everything is going her way, yeah.
“But she’s really aggressive and she’s staying on the baseline, hitting the ball, taking the ball pretty early, making you move so you would be always out of the position.”
“She started incredibly well in the beginning, but I’m just glad I was able to stay patient, fight for every point,” Fernandez said during her media conference..
“I was glad in the tiebreaker I was able to be offensive but not overly playing and go for my shots. The second set I had my chances, but I did a few mistakes. She jumped on the opportunity to get the set.
“In the third, it was just a good battle. We went till the end. I was glad I was able to put that one more ball back in.”
The Canadian talked about her journey in tennis including those who doubted her:
“I think the obvious one is that a lot of people doubted me, my family and my dreams. They kept saying no, that I’m not going to be a professional tennis player, that I should stop and just pursue going to school.
“I remember one teacher, which was actually very funny – at the time wasn’t, but now I’m laughing. She told me to stop playing tennis, you will never make it, and just focus on school.
“You know what, I’m just glad that she told me that because every day I have that phrase in my head saying that I’m going to keep going, I’m going to push through, and I’m going to prove to her everything that I’ve dreamed of I’m going to achieve them.
“But that’s basically just the tip of the iceberg. There’s many more things that we had to go through as a family.
“Another example is that my mom had to go to California for a few years to support my family and I in the tennis world. That few years been definitely hard for me because I needed a mom, I needed someone to be there for me through the age of 10 to 13. I’ve barely seen her at that time. Every time I saw her, it was like seeing a stranger but at the same time someone so familiar.
“I was just very lucky to have my mom here at this tournament cheering for me and having fun with me all this time. But we’ve gone through so many things together as a family. I’m just glad that right now everything’s going on our side.”
This was the left-handed Canadian’s fourth straight three-set match.
Raducanu steamrolled through her Greek opponent in the first set breaking her three times. Sakkari was 0-7 on break point chances in the first set. The British woman grabbed an early break in the second and held on for the win.
From the qualifier, she has yet to drop a set from the qualifying tournament through the semifinal.
“I think today was always going to be a very difficult match, to play against Maria Sakkari,” said the British teen. “She’s an unbelievable player, probably one of the best athletes out there on tour. I knew before the match I was going to have to play some of my best tennis if I wanted a chance.
“Honestly I think I played some of my best tennis today, especially here in New York. Yeah, I knew I was going to have to be super aggressive. I managed to execute. So, yeah, I’m just really happy with today’s performance.”
Raducanu and Fernandez have met before going back to the juniors.
“It was definitely under 12s,” said Raducanu. “We first encountered each other because I was born in Toronto and she was Canadian, so we kind of, like, made a little relationship back then.
“But, yeah, then I played her at junior Wimbledon. Obviously since then we’ve both come very far in our games and as people. Yeah, I’m sure it’s going to be extremely different to when we last encountered each other.
“But we’re both playing good tennis so it will be a good match.”
“Honestly I just can’t believe it. A shock. Crazy. All of the above.
“But, yeah, it means a lot to be here in this situation. I wanted obviously to, like, be playing Grand Slams, but I didn’t know how soon that would be. To be in a Grand Slam final at this stage of my career, yeah, I have no words.
“Yeah, I just want to thank everyone who has supported me in this journey. I think that from a young age the LTA has taken me under its wing, really helped me out from a young age. My team back home and my team that are physically here with me, I wouldn’t be here without them.”
The final between unseeded players will be a first for a major final in the Open Era, men or women.
More to follow….