For the first time in the Open Era of professional tennis, two unseeded players will meet in a Grand Slam final as Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez battle for the US Open women’s championship on Saturday.
Raducanu became the first qualifier to reach any Grand Slam final – men’s or women’s – in the Open Era by beating Greece’s Maria Sakkari 6-1, 6-4 on Thursday.
An unprecedented Grand Slam final matchup
This history doesn’t end there. The 18-year-old Raducanu and the 19-year-old Fernandez will compete in the first major final between two teenagers since Serena Williams (17) beat Martina Hingis (18) at the 1999 US Open.
While neither woman entered the US Open with any expectation of winning a title, Raducanu’s run has been even more unlikely. She had to play three qualifying matches just to enter the main draw, and had bought a plane ticket to return home to the UK after qualifying ended, not certain she’d advance to the tournament proper.
Instead, Raducanu has won nine straight matches without dropping a single set. No woman has reached the final without losing a set since Angelique Kerber pulled that off in 2016.
“I’ve just been taking care of each day, Raducanu said after her semifinal victory. “And before you know it, three weeks later, I’m in the final and I can’t believe it.”
Fernandez faced a bit more resistance in her semifinal against No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka. The Canadian dropped the second set but held on to win a tight match, 7-6 (7-3), 4-6, 6-4 on Thursday night.
Teenagers dream of US Open title
Fernandez came into the US Open ranked 73rd in the world – good enough for a direct entry, unlike Raducanu, but far from enough to earn a seed. Since that time, the young phenom has knocked off a litany of the world’s top players, including Naomi Osaka, Kerber, Elina Svitolina, and Sabalenka.
“I think one word that really stuck to me is ‘magical’ because not only is my run really good but also the way I’m playing right now,” Fernandez said after the match. “I’m just having fun, I’m trying to produce something for the crowd to enjoy. I’m glad that whatever I’m doing on court, the fans are loving it and I’m loving it, too. We’ll say it’s magical.”
Fernandez entered the US Open as a better known prospect than the 150th-ranked Raducanu, but the Canadian has been on fire over the past three weeks. In short, it is hard for anyone – fans, pundits, or even bookmakers – to predict what will happen in Saturday’s final.
Still, sportsbooks have to come up with odds, and they see Raducanu as a slight favorite. FanDuel Sportsbook lists Raducanu as the -178 pick over Fernandez (+146) in a US Open final that will make history no matter who wins.
The winner will be among those feeling stunned by the result.
“I wanted obviously to be playing Grand Slams, but I didn’t know how soon that would be,” Raducanu said. “To be in a Grand Slam final at this stage of my career, I have no words.”