Written by: Kyler
Edited by: Chris
Visual by: Summer
Regardless of whether one is a tennis fan, they would still no doubt be amazed by the teenage finalists of the 2021 US Open: Leylah Fernandez and Emma Raducanu, aged 19 and 18 years old respectively. Their success echoes that of the 1999 US Open where two teens, now legends Serena Williams and Martina Hingis, competed at a time when today’s finalists have yet to be born. Their run to the finals culminated in a slew of upsets against stiff competition such as Belinda Bencic, Maria Sakkari, and Fernandez’s jaw-dropping win against former champion Naomi Osaka. From unseeded ‘rookies’ to finalists, their journey was no flash in the pan, as they consistently showcased impressive form throughout the event.
Tennis, at the highest tier, is a test of mental fortitude, a demonstration of the poise needed to be unfazed by grueling competition and the unwillingness to succumb to pressure. Many pundits concur that the two teenage finalists showcased an almost superhuman mindset throughout their run in the tournament. Retired tennis player Pam Shriver comments that the most impressive aspect of Fernandez’s game is “Her mindset. It’s unusual to have four straight challenging, three-set matches like she has, so deep into a major.” Likewise, James Blake stated that “[Raducanu’s] handling of the pressure” made the difference for her reaching the Slam final. “She has all the shots, but she is prepared at such a young age to handle the moment.”
Emma Raducanu ultimately triumphed over Leylah Fernandez in a considerably dominant fashion, but Fernandez’s loss in the finals cannot take away the respect she’s garnered. In sports, one often has to discuss the relatively grim narrative of the silver-medal counterpart, yet it is difficult to pinpoint any criticism in such a unique final, liberated from the weight of any expectations. For both these athletes, their names would’ve been unknown two weeks ago, sitting in triple-digit rankings. However, the US Open has served as a means for them to carve their names in not only tennis history, but the history of all female athletes. It is exceptionally rare to see such a meteoric rise of two players in sports, simultaneously coming of age and undergoing their respective rite of passage. They are just teenagers forging their destiny, one forehand (or backhand) at a time.