But it was Raducanu, 18, who completed the improbable story line at Arthur Ashe Stadium, winning a fiercely contested battle of brave shot-making and defensive grit, 6-4, 6-3, to claim the U.S. Open championship.
Raducanu became the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam title in the sport’s Open era. And she did it without conceding a set over 10 matches — three in qualifying, seven during the tournament.
For the achievement, she collected a $2.5 million winner’s check that will boost her year-to-date earnings of $268,191 roughly tenfold.
As runner-up, Fernandez, 19, earned $1.25 million. They were the first teenagers to meet in the U.S. Open final since 1999, when Serena Williams won the first of her 23 major titles at 17, over Martina Hingis. — Liz Clarke
But over the past two weeks, they have turned the U.S. Open into joyous coming-out parties that have thrilled the crowds at Arthur Ashe Stadium and left the Grand Slam aspirations of more seasoned and accomplished players in tatters.
Fernandez thrust her right arm to the sky in her signature victory celebration after she vanquished world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, 7-6 (7-3), 4-6, 6-4.
It was Fernandez’s fourth consecutive upset of a seeded player in a three-set battle and by far her most impressive.
In the match that followed, Raducanu, who just this summer finished her high school A level exams in Britain, made history in becoming the first qualifier to reach a Grand Slam final in the sport’s Open era with her 6-1, 6-4 victory over 17th seed Maria Sakkari of Greece.
Moreover, Raducanu has yet to concede a set — not in the six matches to reach Saturday’s final or in the three qualifying matches she had to win to earn a spot in the 128-player field, given that her 150th world ranking fell short of the cutoff.
Raducanu put her hands on her head and burst into a huge smile upon sealing the victory over Sakkari, a 2021 French Open semifinalist, in 84 minutes.
“I can’t actually believe it,” said Raducanu, who was cheered on by Virginia Wade, the last British woman to reach a Grand Slam final, in 1977, and former British No.1 Tim Henman, who has been an adviser.
Fernandez needed 2 hours 21 minutes and all the tactics at her disposal for her three-set victory over Sabalenka, who boasts a more powerful game, more experience and a more imposing physique, nearly a half-foot taller.
This year’s US Open Junior Championships are eagerly awaited by players and fans alike after the 2020 edition of the tournament was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The crowds are back in New York, and the juniors competing in the six-day event are ready to compete side by side with the world’s top professionals on the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York.
Players spent the day on Sunday dodging rain drops as they took to the practice courts in advance of the start of the year’s final junior slam, which begins on Monday. Twelve qualifiers and a lucky loser joined the field on Saturday after the completion of the qualifying tournament at the Cary Leeds Tennis Center in the Bronx, with four Americans joining the 27 others who were direct entries or wild card recipients.
One of those qualifiers, Theadora Rabman, isn’t far from home, with the 16-year-old New Yorker making the best of her wild card into qualifying by winning two matches over seeded players in third-set tiebreakers. Another unseeded 16-year-old wild card, Californian Kyle Kang, matched Rabman’s feat, defeating two seeds, including the second seed in qualifying, Coleman Wong of Hong Kong, 6-1, 3-6, 10-5. Both will make their junior slam debuts on Monday. Valencia Xu and lucky loser Katja Wiersholm round out the quartet of Americans who emerged from qualifying.
The United States Tennis Association decided to reduce the draw size for this year’s tournament, calling it “the best opportunity to host a safe and logistically successful event.”
The qualifying draw size went from 32 to 24 and the main draw size from 64 to 48, meaning that the 16 seeded players in each singles draw will have byes, with their opponents decided in Monday’s first round.
The top two seeds are, for the third consecutive junior slam, Andorra’s Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva and China’s Juncheng Shang, both of whom reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon. The Wimbledon champions, Samir Banerjee of the United States and Ane Mintegi Del Olmo of Spain, are the No. 2 and No. 4 seeds, respectively, joining 2020 Australian Open champion Jimenez Kasintseva as the only junior slam champions in the draw.
The United States claims half of the top six seeds: Banerjee, No. 4 seed Bruno Kuzuhara and No. 6 seed Victor Lilov, the 2021 Wimbledon boys’ finalist. Spain has two seeded boys, No. 3 Daniel Rincon and No. 14 seed Alejandro Manzanera Pertusa, as does France, in No. 10 seed Sean Cuenin and No. 11 seed Sascha Gueymard Wayenburg.
College Park J1 champion Mark Lajal of Estonia, the No. 9 seed, is confident after claiming his third J1 title of the year last month on the hard courts of the Junior Tennis Champions Center, and American wild card Ryan Colby, a finalist in College Park, is also one to watch.
No. 16 seed Ashlyn Krueger, who played in the women’s singles main draw as the USTA National 18s singles champion, and No. 7 seed Robin Montgomery are two of the four seeded Americans, along with No. 12 seed Elvina Kalieva and No. 10 seed Madison Sieg. No other country has more than one seeded player in the girls’ draw.
An unseeded girl to watch is 16-year-old Reese Brantmeier, who was runner-up to Krueger at the USTA National 18s and won two rounds as a wild card in the women’s qualifying. So too is Julia Middendorf of Germany, who warmed up for her last junior slam by winning an ITF World Tennis Tour event at W15 level in her home country last month.
With nearly one of every three players in the draw from the United States, the fans in New York will have no trouble finding a rooting interest. If that player is an underdog, the cheers will be even louder as supporters look to identify the next Jenson Brooksby (2018 boys semi-finalist), Brandon Nakashima (2019 boys semi-finalist) or Coco Gauff (2017 finalist) who they could be watching on Ashe or Armstrong Stadiums in a few short year.
No.43 Shelby Rogers rallied from a double-break down in the final set to upend World No.1 Ashleigh Barty’s quest for a US Open title.
NEW YORK – Shelby Rogers kept the home hopes alive at the US Open, as the Charleston native manufactured a stunning third-set comeback to stun No.1 Ashleigh Barty 6-2, 1-6, 7-6(5) in the third round to advance to her second straight Round of 16 in New York. A quarterfinalist last year, the 28-year-old played a disciplined match to earn her first win in six matches against the World No.1, coming back from a double-break down in the final set to steal the win. The victory is Rogers’ first over a Top 10 player since defeating Serena Williams last year in Lexington and her first-ever win over a reigning World No.1.
In their fifth meeting in the 2021 season alone, Rogers was looking to tally her first win over the Australian. Rogers had reason to believe an upset was possible. Rogers had played Barty close twice this year, taking her to a match-tiebreak at the Yarra Valley Classic in February before losing 7-5, 2-6, 10-4. On the green clay of Charleston, their Round of 16 duel came down to the wire, with Barty edging it 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-4.
“I think tonight going on the court I told myself I didn’t want to lose the same way I lost the last five times against her,” Rogers said. “I just tried to do things a little bit differently. In the first set I mixed in some high balls, I was super patient with her slice because she’s not going to miss one very often. I know that very well.”
There were early signs of trouble for Barty, who fired four double-faults in her second service game to give Rogers the early break at 2-1. With Barty struggling to find her range on her serve and off the ground – the Wimbledon champion hit 17 unforced errors in the opening set – Rogers cruised to break Barty twice and seal the first set 6-2 after 32 minutes. She did not face a break point in the set.
“I think what I’ve learned most from her is that she’s No.1 for a reason. It was going to take everything I had tonight to beat her. I gave everything I had and got the win.”- Shelby Rogers
Barty immediately righted the ship in the second set. After coming through two tight service games to hold, Barty broke Rogers for a 3-1 lead and never looked back. After hitting 17 unforced errors in the first set, Barty hit just 7 in the second set, while firing 13 winners. As she recognized Rogers opting for a more defensive gameplan, Barty found her range and rhythm, finding good purchase when she patiently built points and extended rallies.
“In the second and third, she definitely raised her level, as she does,” Rogers said. “I mean, she’s the No.1 player in the world for a reason. But I started wanting to hit the ball a little bit harder, find some winners if I could. That’s the tennis I like to play. That’s what she wants me to do. She wants to redirect and finesse me around the court, wait for me to miss.”
Turning Point: Barty continued her progress through the final set, building a 5-2, double-break lead. But as the World No.1 stood just four points from the Round of 16, the unforced errors began to creep in again. Serving at 5-3, 15-0, Barty misfired on three consecutive unforced errors – a forehand, a backhand, and a double-fault – and Rogers broke as Barty mishit yet another forehand at 30-40.
After Rogers hold from 30-all in the next game by out-rallying Barty with a forehand winner and then closing with an unreturned serve, the partisan crowd on Arthur Ashe Stadium were on their feet. Feeding off their energy and buoyed by Barty’s failed attempt to close out the match, Rogers doubled down on her defensive efforts. As Barty tried to serve out the match for a second time at 5-4, Rogers made her intentions known, chasing down every ball and baiting Barty to go for less margin than she was comfortable with.
As Barty served at deuce, Rogers won one of the longest rallies of the match – an 18-shot all-court exchange – that ended as Barty misfired a forehand. On her second break point of the game, Rogers converted, fending off a 107 m.p.h first serve. Barty misfired on another forehand off the return and the comeback was on. Rogers had leveled to 5-5.
After an exchange of holds at 30, Barty and Rogers readied for the deciding tiebreak. Barty came into the match with a 14-2 record in three-set matches this season, while Rogers was 4-8. The tense tiebreak rolled along on serve, with Rogers coming up with the defensive answers to Barty’s craft. Serving at 1-2, Rogers fended off a series of biting Barty backhand slices down the line to get the better of the No.1 in a 19-shot rally. In fact, Rogers would win all three points in the tiebreak that lasted over 10 shots, reversing the trend that saw Barty get the match on her terms in the second set.
At 5-5 in the tiebreak, Barty finally blinked. Unable to summon her formidable first serve, Barty missed a forehand off a driven forehand return from Rogers to give the American the first match point of the night. With the biggest win of her career on her racquet, Rogers found a 105 m.p.h first serve wide that Barty could not get back. After 2 hours and 8 minutes, Rogers’ look of complete disbelief said it all.
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