Either result, a Cinderella was winning the 2021 U.S. Open. It just turned out not to be lefty sweetheart Leylah Fernandez of Canada.
It turned out to be the one from Great Britain in maybe an even bigger fairytale.
The 18-year-old Emma Raducanu captured the U.S. Open in a straight-set 6-4, 6-3 victory over the 19-year-old Fernandez to cap a perfect three-week run as the first qualifier to ever win a Grand Slam title.
It is the first time a British woman has won a major title since Virginia Wade in 1977.
Raducanu scraped her left leg, drawing blood in the final game when she faced a break point, and needed to be bandaged up. Fernandez had words with the umpires about the four-minute break but it seemed legitimate.
Raducanu, with the area below her knee bandaged, came back, took the game and match, and fell to her back in joy.
Because her ranking of 150th entering the event forced her to go through the qualifying tournament, Raducanu needed 10 matches to win the Open. And the Brit never dropped a set, not even in the qualifiers, making it 20 straight sets to conquer Flushing Meadows like no player has ever done before.
It started with no fans at the qualifiers (they weren’t permitted onto the grounds because of COVID-19) to a jam-packed Ashe Stadium.
Fernandez upset marquee talents Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber, Elina Svitolina and Aryna Sabalenka to get to the final, but the glass slipper shattered on Saturday.
In the very broad picture, these are two new teenage stars on the circuit, making it even more difficult for Serena Williams to ever reach her last goal of trying Margaret Court for a record 24 majors. Williams is one away and missed the Open with a hamstring injury.
Early on, the fans were yelling out Leylah’s name almost predominantly, but as the first set carried on, plenty of voices were heard yelling, “Let’s go, Emma!’’
Earlier this summer, Raducanu was the world’s 338th-ranked player, given a wild card into the main draw to her home major at Wimbledon. She became the youngest British woman to reach the fourth round in the Open era at the All England Club but still needed to qualify at Flushing Meadows.
In the second set, Fernandez posted an early break in the second game, but Raducanu broke back to tie at 2-2 with a forehand service return winner and broke again with a passing shot to make it 4-2 and she closed it out.
It was a lengthy 58-minute first set with Raducanu prevailing. At 5-4, Raducanu capitalized on her fourth breakpoint, whipping a forehand winner. She looked up to the stands and waved her arms as the crowd noise rose louder.
Raducanu seemed always in command with Fernandez chasing. The young Brit playing her second career Grand Slam broke in the match’s first game, after finally clinching it on the sixth break point in a five-deuce game.
Fernandez struggled to hold her first service game, fighting off a break point to go up 2-0. But lefty Fernandez broke back in the next game to square the proceedings.
She was the first qualifier to make a Grand Slam final and the first one to win it.