Emma Raducanu has won a thrilling first set against Leyla Fernandez in the US Open final as she hopes to make history as the first British woman to win a major in 44 years.
The 18-year-old from Kent took the opening set 6-4 after a hard fought battle with the 19-year-old Canadian in front of a tense crowd of 24,000 at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York.
There was little to separate the teenagers whose relentless hitting from the baseline drew gasps from the crowd, but in the end some wayward serving from Fernandez opened up a chance for the Briton.
She worked the Canadian wide and then fizzed a forehand winner into the space behind Fernandez to clinch the set in stunning style.
Raducanu is now just one set away from becoming the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam and the first British winner since Virginia Wade at Wimbledon in 1977.
On the line is a prize cheque for £1.8million – more than eight times Raducanu’s current career earnings – as well as 2,000 ranking points, which would move the teenager up from her current standing of 150 to 23.
The match was preceded by a poignant ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11, with a massive Stars and Stripes flag unfurled by female cadets, while a ‘9-11-01’ stencil has been painted onto the court.
Speaking just before walking on court, Raducanu said: ‘The time has flown here in New York. I’ve just been taking it one match at a time and it has got me to the final.
‘I’m going to go out there and enjoy it today. It’s so exciting in my second grand slam to be in the final. I can’t really believe it but I can’t wait to get stuck in. I’m sure the crowd will be great so it will be a really positive experience.’
Canadian Fernandez, 19, is also an unexpected finalist and her giant-killing run has included victories over former champions Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber and top-five seeds Aryna Sabalenka and Elina Svitolina.
She said: ‘It’s been incredible. I’ve been having a lot of fun on court, I’ve been playing well and I can’t wait for the finals today. I think we’re just going to go out there and have fun. We’ve both been playing incredibly well.’
Raducanu is being backed by millions back in the UK after she won widespread praise for her semi-final performance, including from the Duke and
The match is being shown live on Channel 4 after a last-minute deal said to be worth £30 million was struck with Amazon amid feverish anticipation among the tennis-loving British public.
Raducanu shouts and clenches her fist after taking a point in the first set of the US Open
Raducanu sprints across the court to return a shot from the Canadian Fernandez during the first set of the final at the Arthur Ashe Stadium
Raducanu rues a missed point in the hard-fought first set against her Canadian opponent
Raducanu gives a shout after winning a point (left) and leaping into the air to fire off a serve
Leylah Fernandez, of Canada, returns a shot to Emma Raducanu, of Britain, during the women’s singles final of the US Open
Fernandez strikes a two-handed forearm shot back to her opponent
Raducanu clenches her fist after taking a point in the first set of the final of the US Open
Suzanne Williams, Strength and Conditioning coach for Emma Raducanu aged 8-12 at the Parklangley Club in Beckenham, where Emma trained from age 6 get ready to watch her in the US Open Final
Raducanu yells after a point as she gives herself a morale boost after claiming another point against the Canadian
Raducanu returns a shot from Fernandez as they get underway in the US Open final
Raducanu gets herself set up to lash a backhand back to her opponent
Raducanu looks up to the stands as she walks out with her bag over her shoulders for the final
Raducanu and her opponent walk out to rapturous applause at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows
Former British professional tennis player, Viginia Wade, left, waits for play between Emma Raducanu, of Britain, and Leylah Fernandez, of Canada. Raducau is hoping to make history as the first British woman to win a major since Ms Wade at Wimbledon 44 years ago.
Fernandez of Canada waves to the fans as she takes to the court ahead of the final clash
The American fans go wild for Raducanu as she walks out onto the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium
Raducanu walks out onto the court at Arthur Ashe on Saturday afternoon hoping to make it a fairytale in New York
Speaking just before walking out, Raducanu said: ‘It’s so exciting to be in my second Grand Slam and in the final and going out there today I can’t wait to just get stuck in and I’m sure it will be a positive experience’
Raducanu (right) is taking on Leylah Fernandez, 19, (left) in front of 24,000 fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York – the first all-teenage women’s final at Flushing Meadows in 22 years.
Raducanu looks focused ahead of her match against the Canadian Fernandez who she has known from youth tennis since she was 12
Raducanu, wearing a red and blue ensemble made by Nike, in the tunnel before heading out
The match was preceded by a poignant ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11, with a massive Stars and Stripes flag unfurled by female cadets, while a ‘9-11-01’ stencil has been painted onto the court
Female cadets stand beside a stencil of 9/11/01 in a ceremony to mark 20 years since the terror attacks in New York City ahead of the match
A massive Stars and Stripes is unfurled in a ceremony to mark 20 years since 9/11 before the match got underway
Fans stand for the national anthem at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York on Saturday afternoon
Members of the Military take part in the opening ceremony before the Women’s Singles final match between Emma Raducanu of Great Britain and Leylah Annie Fernandez of Canada
Harry Bushnell, coach to Emma Raducanu aged 6-10 at the Parklangley Club in Beckenham, where Emma trained from age 6 gets ready to watch her in the US Open Final
The atmosphere was electric at Raducanu’s home tennis club in Beckenham, southeast London, where a viewing party was hosted – as they had done for her run at Wimbledon earlier this summer.
Cheers and applause erupted as Raducanu spoke to the media before walking out onto the court, with several teenage fans saying they were sure she was going to win.
Suzanne Williams, her former strength and conditioning coach, said: ‘It’s absolutely incredible just to see her develop and become this player when I knew her when she was so young, from 8-12 years old.
‘Of course you could see there was some incredible potential there but to see her on the screen in this environment is incredible.’
She added: ‘For girls to know that it’s in their reach, because they’re at the same place she was, it doesn’t feel too far removed from them, it’s just incredible for them to get this role model.’
Harry Bushnell, who coached her from the age of six to ten, said: ‘As a coach, you want to coach someone that goes all the way so it’s my first time of being involved in anybody that’s gotten this far and it’s an amazing feeling.’
Raducanu match is shown live on Channel 4 after ‘£30 million’ deal with Amazon amid pressure to make historic event free to British public
Emma Raducanu’s shot at US Open glory will be available to watch on free-to-air television after Amazon Prime agreed a deal with Channel 4 to share the women’s final on Saturday.
The 18-year-old has captivated the nation with her exploits in New York and she takes on fellow teenager Leylah Fernandez in the showpiece event hoping to become the first British woman to win a grand slam in 44 years.
Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service has had exclusive broadcast rights in this country for the final grand slam of the year, but has agreed a deal – understood by the PA news agency to be seven figures – for the match to be shown on both Prime Video and Channel 4, maximising the viewing potential for one of the biggest sporting stories of the year.
And it has pledged to reinvest that money into British women’s tennis to help fund the next generation of players.
‘Emma’s journey from qualification through to the US Open final at the age of 18 is a truly magical story for British sport and we think it’s important that we extend our coverage to as many people as possible to support her in this historic moment for women’s tennis,’ said Alex Green, managing director of Prime Video Sport Europe.
‘Young tennis talent such as Emma need the right support to become the stars we see today and we’re delighted to be able to commit even more investment to the next generation of women’s tennis in the UK.’
Channel 4’s chief content officer Ian Katz said: ‘Emma’s meteoric rise to secure a place in the US Open final is just sensational.
‘We’re glad to have worked with Prime Video and pulled out all the stops to get it on air and I’m sure viewers will be thrilled at the prospect of watching Emma in this grand slam final.’
Oliver Dowden, secretary of state for culture, media and sport, praised the deal.
His statement read: ‘Tonight the whole country will be behind the British tennis sensation Emma Raducanu, so I am delighted that Amazon Prime and Channel Four have responded to our call to make this historic sporting moment free to watch so that as many of us as possible can cheer her on tonight.
‘I applaud them for their quick work in making this happen and for the fact that the money involved in this deal will go direct into women’s tennis in Britain to benefit and inspire the stars of the future.’
Speaking about the media pressure that Raducanu has been under since her performance at Wimbledon, he said: ‘I just am obviously very protective of her, but I know she views pressure as a privilege.
‘I think she conducts herself really well I know that she got a bit of stick at Wimbledon with the way that ended but I was always confident that she would go away from that, dust herself off and come back stronger.’
TV presenter Gary Lineker begged Emma Radacanu to win the second set of the US Open final quickly so that people would be able to watch Match Of The Day.
He tweeted: ‘Come on @EmmaRaducanu. Fantastic first set. Please try and win the 2nd set so we can all concentrate on @BBCMOTD.’
Earlier, Manchester United star Marcus Rashford asked for the programme to be moved back to allow people to finish watching the tennis.
‘Do us a favour @GaryLineker push it back the tennis is on…’ he wrote.
Not since Ms Wade lifted her most famous title at Wimbledon in 1977 has a British woman even reached a grand slam singles final until now.
That the player to achieve the feat is an 18-year-old taking her first real steps in the professional game makes this one of the most extraordinary stories in all sport.
Ms Wade called Raducanu the ‘real thing’. She told ITV this week: ‘I can’t tell you how exciting it is.
‘We’ve been waiting such a long time for a British player on the women’s side to really come through. Every time you watch her you think she’s going to win every point out there. You don’t even get that nervous. It was remarkable.
‘I’m sure she is the real thing, you don’t get someone head and shoulders above that often and I think she’s one of those.
‘She’s stopping all her opponents in their tracks and she’s got an incredible future ahead of her. If it doesn’t happen on Saturday (win a grand slam) it’s going to happen sooner or later because she is really good.’
Even defeat would see Raducanu climb to 32nd in the rankings, putting her in contention to be seeded for her debut at the Australian Open in January.
She has already earned a minimum £900,000 from the nine matches she has won in New York.
Fernandez is just two months older than Raducanu and the pair have known each other since they competed at under-12 level.
‘We first encountered each other because I was born in Toronto and she was Canadian, so we kind of made a little relationship back then,’ said Raducanu, who won their only previous meeting in the girls’ singles at Wimbledon three years ago.
‘Obviously since then we’ve both come very far in our games and as people. I’m sure it’s going to be extremely different to when we last encountered each other. But we’re both playing good tennis so it will be a good match.’
The pair share an immigrant background. Raducanu, who moved to the UK when she was two, has a Romanian father and Chinese mother while Fernandez has Ecuadorian, Peruvian and Filipino heritage.
The Canadian is coached by her father Jorge, who believes the final is a significant moment for the women’s game.
The former footballer said: ‘I see they’re both bringing a type of game that is not common right now on the circuit.
‘I see that they bring a flair that is very unique for them. I’m glad that they’re touching the Asian community. I think that’s a huge opportunity in the women’s game.
‘I think it’s just positive for the game. Obviously I want Leylah to win. That goes without saying. But I just think that the match-up and what we’re seeing, those two ladies are touching a lot of young girls.
‘I’m getting messages about, ‘Please pass this to Leylah’, little girls saying, ‘You’re making us believe’. This can only be good for the tennis game and the WTA altogether.’
Emma Raducanu’s US Open final against Leylah Fernandez is to be aired on Channel 4
Raducanu during a training session in New York on Friday ahead of her historic clash with Fernandez
She insists she will not be a favourite for the final against Fernandez as she is only a qualifier
Raducanu’s epic performances in New York have drawn in a legion of new excited supporters
Royals, tennis legends, world leaders and celebrities have piled praise on ‘Teen Queen’ Emma Raducanu after she blazed into the US Open final at the age of just 18
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