But no one could have predicted that it would be left to two teenagers ranked 150th and 73rd in the world to create the kind of frenzied hype in women’s tennis seen over the past fortnight with their riveting trips to Saturday’s final.
Britain’s Emma Raducanu and Canadian Leylah Fernandez, born two months apart in 2002, took the US Open by storm with their youthful exuberance and fearless style of play.
The appreciation of fans around the world was reflected in the mood of the 23,000 spectators during Saturday’s title clash at the colossal Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“I have never heard a crowd at Grand Slam tennis be so loud, so thankful for the players and the player who responded,” said Mats Wilander, seven-time Major League Champion and Eurosport tennis expert.
“This was an epic of the US Open. It was a great comeback from the US Open, it was an incredible two weeks.”
While 18-year-old Raducanu took the ultimate prize to become the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam title, women’s tennis was also a winner.
American Williams, who turns 40 this month, has been one of the biggest draws in Flushing Meadows for the past two decades and her retirement would have sent chills to organizers hoping to enjoy the glory of having a full-capacity crowd at a Important event. for the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak.
When Fernandez beat Osaka, a two-time US Open winner, in the third round, spirits cooled even more when the Japanese player, who has been struggling with mental health issues, walked off the hard court and said she was unsure. of when he would compete again.
The next day, the world number one, Barty, who won the Wimbledon title in July, he was also toppled.
With Novak Djokovic on track to become the first man in 52 years to claim all four major titles in a calendar year, the women’s competition in New York was in danger of becoming a card during the second week of the Grand Slam.
But Raducanu and Fernández made sure it wasn’t, keeping the global audience enthralled with their dazzling careers from relative obscurity.
Eleven weeks ago, the ever-smiling Raducanu had just finished school when she made her Grand Slam debut at Wimbledon as a wild card 338 in the rankings. The US Open was only his fourth tour-level tournament.
Fernandez played in the major league main draw for the first time last year and was ranked 73rd at the start of the US Open.
But what would have seemed like a scandalous title clash came true when Saturday’s final featured two unseeded players for the first time in an Open Era major.
While men’s tennis has only crowned one new big winner out of the trio of Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Djokovic in the last five years, there have been 14 different major champions in women’s tennis since the start of the 2017 season.
The depth and unpredictability of women’s tennis has been cause for celebration.
Bianca Andreescu and Iga Swiatek were 19 when they won the 2019 US Open and 2020 French Open respectively, while Osaka and Sofia Kenin have also been among the young women’s champions on the bigger stage in recent years. .
Add 17 years American Coco Gauff, who has already recorded some impressive victories in her fledgling career, to women’s mixed and tennis looks to an exciting future.
“Emma and Leylah represent two of the talented groups of young prospects on the WTA Tour and are leading what is sure to be an incredible era of WTA Tennis,” said WTA President and CEO Steve Simon. Reuters a few hours before the final on Saturday.
“The final appears to be one of the most exciting sporting events of the year as millions of tennis fans around the world will be inspired by these two amazing young athletes as they continue to exude great joy competing in one of the sports.” . larger stages while embodying the true spirit of what it means to be a WTA player, both on and off the pitch.
“A sports league couldn’t ask for two better role models.”
While experts are wary of the possibility of Raducanu or Fernandez dominating the sport like Williams did after winning their first slam in New York in 1999, the duo have already established their star power and can expect sponsors and brands queue up.
Data and analytics company GlobalData predicted that Raducanu could make millions after becoming the first British woman to win a major since Virginia Wade’s victory at Wimbledon in 1977.
Your global profile should also be a huge draw and prepare fertile ground for new tennis interests and fans for the WTA.
Jorge Fernández, the 19-year-old Canadian’s father, is from Ecuador, while Raducanu is from Romania.
Raducanu’s mother is from China, while Fernández’s is Filipino.
The British player could access the mass market in China in the same way that Osaka did in her native Japan.
Her recent comments about admiring two-time Chinese winner Li Na growing up and her message in Mandarin after Saturday’s win would surely make her more loved by fans in the Asian country.
Teens were “fantastic” advertisements for the sport in its bid to boost its global footprint, Jorge feels.
“I’m glad they are touching the Asian community. I think it’s a great opportunity in women’s football just to be able to expand and have a new style,” she said this week.
“Those two women are touching a lot of young girls. They are touching a lot of young girls.
“I get messages about ‘please pass this on to Leylah,’ little girls saying, ‘you’re making us believe.’ This can only be good for the game of tennis and for the WTA as a whole.”