Youngest since Sharapova: Brilliant Brit Raducanu books historic all-teen US Open final with Canadian ace Fernandez

Youngest since Sharapova: Brilliant Brit Raducanu books historic all-teen US Open final with Canadian ace Fernandez

British sensation Emma Raducanu set up an all-teenage US Open final against Canada’s Leylah Fernandez as the remarkable duo ensured they will become the youngest stars to contest Grand Slam glory since Maria Sharapova in 2004.

Raducanu’s fairytale in New York continued as she powered past Greek 17th seed Maria Sakki 6-1 6-4 in their semi-final on Thursday.

The 18-year-old Brit came through qualifying and has yet to drop a set in this year’s tournament, breezing through the competition with a maturity that belies her tender years and inexperience.

Raducanu becomes the first qualifier ever to reach a Grand Slam final – male or female – and is the first British women to compete in a major singles final since Virginia Wade at Wimbledon 44 years ago.

Raducanu, who was born in Canada to a Chinese mother and Romanian father, but moved to London at the age of two, said she was in disbelief at her achievement.

“Honestly the time here has gone so fast, I’ve been taking care of each day and three weeks later I’m in the final, I can’t believe it,” said the youngster, who is ranked 150 in the world.

“You can’t get ahead of yourself and just stay present. Today I wasn’t thinking about anyone else except for myself…

“Is there any expectation?” Raducanu asked jokingly. “I’m a qualifier so there’s no pressure on me!”

Elsewhere to the BBC the Brit described her feat as “crazy, cool and absolutely mind-blowing.”

Raducanu becomes the youngest women’s Grand Slam finalist since Russia’s Maria Sharapova claimed the Wimbledon title at the age of 17 back in 2004.

Russian ace Sharapova was just 17 when she won Wimbledon. © Reuters

Raducanu had first burst onto the scene after her run at Wimbledon earlier this year, where she was forced to retire in her fourth-round match due to breathing difficulties.

That had sparked a national debate after the likes of TV personality Piers Morgan claimed Raducanu needed more mental fortitude, were she to ascend to the very top of the game.  

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Emma Raducanu marched on in New York. © USA Today Sports
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But Raducanu has shown her character in spades in New York – and in the form of Canadian starlet Leylah Fernandez will meet someone barely older than her in Saturday’s final at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Fernandez, who only turned 19 this week, made her own slice of history by beating Belarusian second seed Aryna Sabalenka in their semi-final earlier on Thursday, having already seen off defending champion Naomi Osaka and fifth seed Elina Svitolina.

Fernandez was equally incredulous at her achievement. © USA Today Sports

The clash between Raducanu and Fernandez will be the first all-teenage Grand Slam final affair since 1999, when Serena Williams beat Martina Hingis, and will be only the eighth such meeting in the Open Era. 

It wall also be the first time two unseeded players have met in a Grand Slam final (male or female) since the Open Era began back in 1968. 

“My mental toughness has come from years and years of hard work and blood. On-court and off-court sacrifices,” said world number 73 Fernandez after her win.

Fernandez and Raducanu have crossed paths in the junior ranks, with the Brit saying they “go back a long way."

“I remember speaking to her in Under-12 Orange Bowl. We played each other at junior Wimbledon.

"We've both come so far since we last played each other. I'm excited to see what sort of match-up it will be,” Raducanu told the BBC.

Few – if any – would have predicted that Raducanu and Fernandez would be the last women standing in New York, but come Saturday, one of them will be crowned a very unlikely Grand Slam queen for the first time.


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