It did have that feeling about it that these two youngsters would make it through to Saturday’s final and so it is. It will be the first all-teenage final at a Grand Slams since 1999 when a 17-year-old by the name of Serena Williams took out 18-year-old Martina Hingis.
Leylah Fernandez was first on the Ashe against the second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka. I think my fears for the Belarussian going into the contest proved correct. The crowd were firmly with Fernandez and when the scoreboard got tight so did Aryna, something the Canadian doesn’t seem to have a problem with. Sabalenka lead by a break in the opener and by a mini-break in the tiebreak but she couldn’t pull clear and lost the opener. After taking the second set she was suffering from a similar problem in the decider but it was her who was playing catchup this time and that proved insurmountable. Fernandez broke at 4/5 to take the match after having a break lead earlier on. There is no doubt Sabalenka once again showed how she should win multiple majors with the power she has but there is still work to be done mentally. Fernandez level has not dropped drastically the last few rounds and that is what has been so impressive when you think she has beaten Osaka, Kerber and Svitolina before last night. She is so exciting to watch and the energy she brings to a court is right up there. I have almost got used to looking out for her parents and friends in the crowd, especially her Dad who really seems a character.
Next, it was time for Emma Raducanu. Not that she has needed any help whatsoever with nerves or belief but the victory for Fernandez certainly can’t have done any harm. The Brit saved seven breakpoints in her first few service games but after that was fully in control of her 6/1 6/4 win over Maria Sakkari, not having to save any thereafter. She did everything so well, serving, baseline solidity and volleying. It is now eighteen straight sets as she becomes the first qualifier to reach a slam final and the first British female since Virginia Wade in 1977. What more is there to say? I even see Liam Gallagher is tweeting her to congratulate her on her efforts and more importantly she thanked Tim Henman. Saying he has been an inspiration and telling her to take one point at a time. Tim really seems to be enjoying his time in NYC. Sakkari wasn’t impressed with her own performance saying “She’s enjoying herself. But [her last several opponents,] we were all absent from the court, these days playing against her. I saw Belinda [Bencic] yesterday. I think she would agree that we did not bring our best performance”. I think what she is missing is that the performances of her opponent are one of the main factors that she or Bencic did not bring their A-Game. Both players knew that if they didn’t execute their gameplans to perfection they would be beaten and that is exactly what happened.
The betting I hear you ask? The Brit is currently a slight favourite around the 8/13 (1.61) mark. They last played in the juniors at Wimbledon three years ago, with Raducanu wining on that occasion but they have known each other since Under 12’s with the Brit being born in Toronto. The Final will be played on the twentieth anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11, a time when neither player had been born.
Al Davies (Andy Del Potro).