WILL EVANS’ daily preview serves up US Open tips for a scarcely believable women’s final showdown between newcomers Emma Radacanu and Leylah Fernandez.
06:00 (AEST), Sun 12th Sep @ Flushing Meadows, New York
History: First meeting
Final Thoughts: Welcome to the unlikeliest final match-up in Grand Slam history.
On one side of the net, world No.73 Leylah Fernandez, appearing in just her seventh major and making it past the third round of one for the first time.
On the other, world No.150 Emma Radacanu – the first qualifier ever to reach a Grand Slam final. She made her major debut at Wimbledon, making an eye-catching run to the fourth round.
Both are still teenagers, as Serena Williams and Martina Hingis were when they contested the 1999 US Open final.
Game’s biggest names left in Fernandez’s wake
Fernandez pulled off the boilover of the US Open in third round by coming from a set down to beat defending champion Naomi Osaka. She was just getting warmed up, however.
After again coming from a set down to roll 2016 US Open winner Angelique Kerber, she beat fifth seed Elina Svitolina in another three-setter.
Another big gun was left in the 19-year-old’s wake in the semis. Fernandez outlasted world No.2 Aryna Sabalenka 7-6 4-6 6-4. The Montreal product won her first WTA title earlier this year at the hard-court Monterrey Open.
Radacanu has carved a dominant path to the final by anyone’s standards. Playing in just her fourth WTA Tour-level event, the 18-year-old Brit is yet to drop a set. Amazingly, she has not lost more than seven games in eliminating Stefanie Vogele, Zhang Shuai, Sara Sorribes Tormo, Shelby Rogers, Belinda Bencic and Maria Sakkari.
The 6-3 6-4 quarter-final win over 11th seed Bencic – the first top-40 opponent of her short career – was incredibly comprehensive. She then demolished 17th seed Maria Sakkari 6-1 6-4. Radacanu has dropped just five games on serve all tournament.
The ease of which Radacanu has powered into the decider at Flushing Meadows sees her head in as a $1.56 favourite. Though Fernandez has overwhelmed a higher calibre of opponent overall, Radacanu’s two recent wins proves she can more than match the best.
Fernandez is the better mover of the pair but has had to negotiate four straight lengthy three-set matches. That will work in her favour if the final goes deep and the acid is applied to Radacanu for virtually the first time this fortnight. But if Radacanu can get off to another flying start, she will be difficult to reel in.
Radacanu also has an edge in the ball-striking department; Fernandez’s backhand isn’t the strongest. That contrast should prove a decisive factor.