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Why the Emma Raducanu vs. Leylah Fernandez Final Made History

Published on September 13, 2021

Woman playing tennis.

At the U.S. Open in New York City on Saturday, 18-year-old Emma Raducanu became the first British woman to win a Grand Slam final in 44 years. The tennis player, who moved to London at age two after being born in Canada, defeated Canadian Leylah Fernandez (who celebrated her 19th birthday during the tournament) in straight sets.

What’s more, Emma Raducanu is the first person to win a Grand Slam tournament in only their second career appearance. She’s also the first qualifier to reach a Grand Slam final in the Open Era, and the youngest player to win the Grand Slam since 2004 when Maria Sharapova took home the title.

Emma Raducanu Won $2.5 Million in Historic Match

Raducanu won $2.5 million from the match, and she’s no doubt about to make much more through sponsorship deals and other opportunities. 

With a Romanian father and a Chinese mother, Emma Raducanu speaks Mandarin, visits China often and loves binge-watching Taiwanese TV. Leylah Fernandez’s father (who also happens to be her coach) is Ecuadorian and her mother is Filipino, and Fernandez says while she may not know a ton about the Filipino community, she loves the Filipino food her grandfather cooks. 

The match between Raducanu and Fernandez was close throughout, with Fernandez landing just over half of her first serves and double faulting five times. Raducanu, however, didn’t miss a single set — the last person to do this in New York was Serena Williams in 2014.

Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez Were Both Underdogs

At one point, a medical time-out was called so Raducanu could bandage her knee, which was bleeding from a fall. She still managed to win the third match after only a five-minute break.

With Raducanu ranking 150th in the world and Fernandez 75th prior to the match, both players were underdogs, and even the most seasoned tennis pros couldn’t have predicted the end result of Saturday’s match. Raducanu now ranks 23rd in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) rankings, replacing Johanna Konta who held the top spot in Great Britain for 310 weeks in a row. 

After the match, Raducanu’s Instagram following has risen to 1.7 million. Her bio, which reads “london | toronto | bucharest | shenyang,” is a testament to her global perspective and status as a citizen of the world. 

Raducanu and Fernandez Represent a New Era in Tennis

Both she and Fernandez represent a new era in the world of tennis and sports at large — one that doesn’t necessarily view players as existing behind the monolith of only one nation or culture. Not only will Saturday’s match go down in history as an example of the underdog becoming an overnight champion, but it will also serve as a marker of the new age of tennis, which will hopefully begin to define cultural identity in a broader sense. 

Now, Raducanu is taking her time to savor the moment, and check out the sights in New York City (one of which includes a massive billboard of her face after winning the title!).

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The Author
Mackenzie Patterson is a Toronto-based writer and journalist. She enjoys long walks, iced coffee on tap, and discovering all the latest and greatest health and wellness trends.