Leylah Fernandez knocks off Aryna Sabalenka in three sets
Though her career on the lower-level tours had gotten off to a promising start prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Raducanu was a complete unknown when she received a wild card into this year’s Wimbledon. By the time her tournament was over in the round of 16, she had become a British sensation, launching her toward the U.S. hardcourt swing with doors of opportunity open to her.
And now she’s just bulldozing through them as the first qualifier in history — male or female — to reach a Grand Slam final.
“Leading up to the U.S. Open, I had a lot of matches coming in, so I think I was building with each match,” Raducanu said. “I wasn’t really sure how my level was going to be, but it’s surprised me in the way I’ve managed to step up against the best players in the world. I personally think inside I knew I had some sort of level inside me that was similar to these girls, but I didn’t know if I could maintain it over a set or two sets. To do it and play the best in the world and beat them, I can’t believe it.”
On Saturday, Raducan will face 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez, making it the first all-teenage Grand Slam final since the 1999 U.S. Open (Serena Williams vs. Martina Hingis).
Regardless of who wins, it will be the third unseeded champion in U.S. Open history, joining Kim Clijsters in 2009 and Sloane Stephens in 2017. But never in the history of any Grand Slam have two unseeded women met for the title.
For the 150th-ranked player in the world to put on a performance like this over two weeks is truly something that’s never happened before in tennis history. The fact that she’ll face Fernandez, who came in ranked 73rd, only makes it more bizarre — and special.
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