There were concerns that the U.S. Open Women’s championship would lose its appeal because of early exits by the game’s most recognizable brands.
Queen Serena took a pass on the event before it even started. She’s still trying to get her body back to health so that she can win her elusive 24th Grand Slam and tie Margaret Court’s record.
Despite the absence of some mega-celebrities, history was made in the women’s singles final of the 2021 U.S. Open.
Great Britain’s Emma Raducanu completed a historic run through the tournament by beating Canada’s 19-year-old rising sensation Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 6-3 to win her first Grand Slam title.
China Enters The Game
Raducanu was born in Canada to a Romanian father and Chinese mother, before moving to London at age 2. China has embraced Raducanu in the same way that Japan did Naomi Osaka, whose mom is Japanese and dad is Haitian.
She made history before her title win by becoming the first player in the professional era — dating back to 1968 —to come through the qualifying rounds to reach the final of a major tournament.
By snatching victory, the 18-year-old became the youngest Grand Slam champion since Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon in 2004.
“I think it just shows that the future of women’s tennis and depth is so great. I think every single player has a shot at winning the tournament,” Raducanu said during the trophy presentation.
“First of all I really want to congratulate Leylah on her incredible fortnight. It was an incredibly difficult match but I thought that the quality was really high.
“I hope that me and Leylah put on a good performance today.”
Fernandez is also of mixed ethnicity and another shining example of tennis’ growing diversity. She was born in Laval, Quebec. Her father Jorge is from Ecuador and is a former soccer player. Her mother Irene (née Exevea) is a Filipino Canadian.
If you haven’t seen the most exciting player at the US Open, 19-year old Leylah Fernandez, you’re truly missing out!! She just beat her 3rd ranked opponent and is on fire 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥. She’s captivating the world! @leylahfernandez
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) September 7, 2021
Making this win even more surreal for Raducanu was seeing Virginia Wade in the stands. Wade was the last female player from Great Britain to win a major. Raducanu called her presence uplifting and inspiring.
In just her second Grand Slam tournament, Raducanu ended the tournament as the first player since Serena Williams in 2014 to not drop a set in the U.S. Open.
After an anxious moment where Raducanu needed a medical timeout, she came out firing on all cylinders to close out the match and secure her first Grand Slam title. It could be her first of many after what she displayed this week.
At the very least, she is now a part of a rich crop of talented teens who are slowly taking the torch handoff and giving a glimpse into the future of the WTA. A future that will be much more diverse and competitive than we have seen in the past.
A Crown From A Queen
Emma even received congratulations from Queen Elizabeth II.
“I send my congratulations to you on your success in winning the United States Open Championships,” said The Queen.
“It is a remarkable achievement at such a young age, and is a testament to your hard work and dedication.
“I have no doubt your outstanding performance, and that of your opponent Leylah Fernandez, will inspire the next generation of tennis players. I send my warmest good wishes to you and your many supporters.”
Serena and Venus Williams dominated the tennis landscape for 20 years. Now we have a bunch of women vying to be the next Serena or Venus.
Some of these new generation tennis titans don’t share the Williams sisters’ total Black experience, but they are women of color who certainly share a desire to reach the Williams Sisters’ level of success.