With Serena Williams pulling out resulting from health points — even earlier than a ball had been hit — and Naomi Osaka and Ash Barty dispatched within the third spherical, the worry of a lack of curiosity within the girls’s singles draw at this 12 months’s U.S. Open was palpable.
However nobody might have predicted it might be left to 2 youngsters — ranked one hundred and fiftieth and 73rd on this planet — to create the sort of frenzied hype in girls’s tennis that the game noticed with their fascinating journeys to Saturday’s remaining.
Britain’s Emma Raducanu and Canadian Leylah Fernandez — born two months aside in 2002 — took the U.S. Open by storm with their youthful exuberance and fearless fashion of play.
The appreciation of followers throughout the globe was mirrored within the temper of the 23,000-strong crowd throughout Saturday’s title conflict at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“I’ve by no means heard a crowd in Grand Slam tennis being this loud, this appreciative of the gamers and the gamers responding,” stated Mats Wilander, a seven-time main champion and Eurosport tennis skilled.
“This was an epic of the U.S. Open. It was an incredible comeback of the U.S. Open, it was simply a tremendous two weeks.”
Whereas 18-year-old Raducanu bagged the last word prize to turn out to be the primary qualifier to win a Grand Slam title, girls’s tennis was additionally a winner.
Williams, who turns 40 this month, has been one of many greatest attracts at Flushing Meadows for the final 20 years and her withdrawal doubtless despatched shivers down the spines of organizers hoping to bask within the glory of getting a full capability crowd at a Grand Slam occasion for the primary time because the COVID-19 outbreak.
When Fernandez beat Osaka, a two-time U.S. Open champion, within the third spherical, the temper additional dampened because the Japanese star, who has been fighting psychological well being points, left the hardcourt main saying she was not sure when she is going to compete once more.
The next day, world No. 1 Barty, who gained Wimbledon in July, was additionally ousted.
With Novak Djokovic staying on observe to turn out to be the primary man in 52 years to assert all 4 main titles in a calendar 12 months, the ladies’s competitors in New York was at risk of turning into an undercard.
However Raducanu and Fernandez ensured it didn’t, holding the worldwide viewers obsessed with their scintillating runs from relative obscurity.
Eleven weeks in the past, the ever-smiling Raducanu had simply accomplished college when she made her Grand Slam debut at Wimbledon as a 338th-ranked wildcard. The U.S. Open was solely her fourth tour-level match.
Fernandez performed in the principle draw at majors for the primary time final 12 months and was ranked 73rd initially of the U.S. Open.
However what would have appeared like an outrageous title conflict turned a actuality on Saturday with the Open Period’s first Grand Slam remaining between two unseeded gamers.
Whereas males’s tennis has topped just one new Grand Slam winner exterior the trio of Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Djokovic within the final 5 years, there have been 14 completely different champions in girls’s tennis because the begin of the 2017 season.
The depth and unpredictability of girls’s tennis has been a trigger for celebration.
Bianca Andreescu and Iga Swiatek had been each 19 after they gained the 2019 U.S Open and 2020 French Open, respectively, whereas Osaka and Sofia Kenin have additionally been among the many younger girls’s champions.
Add 17-year-old American Coco Gauff, who has already registered some beautiful wins in her fledgling profession, to the combination and girls’s tennis is taking a look at an thrilling future.
“Emma and Leylah symbolize two of the WTA Tour’s very proficient group of younger prospects and are main what is certain to be an unbelievable period of WTA Tennis,” WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon advised Reuters a number of hours earlier than Saturday’s remaining.
“The ultimate seems to be one of the crucial thrilling sporting occasions of the 12 months as tens of millions of tennis followers around the globe shall be impressed by these two unbelievable younger feminine athletes, as they proceed to exude nice pleasure in competing on one of many sports activities’ greatest phases whereas embodying the true spirit of what it means to be a WTA participant, each on and off the court docket.
“A sports activities league couldn’t ask for 2 higher function fashions.”
Whereas pundits are cautious concerning the prospects of both Raducanu or Fernandez dominating the game like Williams did after profitable her maiden slam in New York in 1999, the duo have already established their star energy and may count on sponsors and types to begin lining up.
Information and analytics firm GlobalData predicted Raducanu might earn tens of millions after turning into the primary British girl to win a serious since Virginia Wade’s Wimbledon triumph in 1977.
Their international profile must also be a serious draw and supply fertile floor for brand new tennis curiosity and followers for the WTA.
Jorge Fernandez, the daddy of the 19-year-old Canadian, is from Ecuador whereas Raducanu’s father is from Romania.
Raducanu’s mom is from China whereas Fernandez’s has Filipino origin.
The British participant might probably faucet into the large market in China the identical approach Osaka did in her native Japan.
Her latest feedback about trying as much as China’s two-time main winner Li Na whereas rising up and her message in Mandarin after Saturday’s win will certainly endear her extra to followers within the Asian nation.
The youngsters had been a “improbable” commercial for the game in its bid to spice up tennis’ international footprint, Fernandez’s father stated
“I’m glad that they’re touching the Asian group. I feel that’s an enormous alternative within the girls’s recreation simply to have the ability to increase and have a brand new fashion,” he stated this week.
“These two girls are touching numerous younger women. They’re touching numerous younger folks.
“I’m getting messages about, ‘please move this to Leylah’, little women saying, ‘you’re making us consider’. This will solely be good for the tennis recreation and the WTA altogether.”
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Leylah Fernandez, Emma Raducanu