Teens shape women's tennis, one Slam at a time

Teenagers Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez reaching the US Open final shows youngsters are not overwhelmed by the occasion of a Grand Slam any more.

Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez

In what could potentially be the sporting storyline of the year, Great Britain’s Emma Raducanu (right) and Leylah Fernandez of Canada have made the women’s singles final.   -  Getty Images

The absence of home favourite Serena Williams, one of tennis' biggest stars, in the US Open 2021, has in no way stopped the surprises from coming.

In what could potentially be the sporting storyline of the year, Great Britain’s Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez of Canada have made the women’s singles final. Raducanu is 18. Leylah is just a year older.

It will be the first all-teen final since a 17-year-old Serena beat an 18-year-old Martina Hingis at the 1999 edition of the US Open.

Since then, Serena has dominated the circuit for two decades during which she won 22 more Majors, putting her just one behind Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24. However, Serena, who’ll soon turn 40, is currently recovering from a torn hamstring, which she sustained during her first-round match at this year’s Wimbledon.

Emma Raducanu: History beckons Briton teen at US Open

Meanwhile, women’s tennis is set to crown its 13th different Grand Slam champion since Serena’s momentous triumph at the 2017 Australian Open. Whether there’ll ever be such dominance across competitions in the future is questionable.

Beginning with the 2017 French Open, won by a then 20-year-old Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia, the average age of a title winner has been just 23 years. The youngest were Canada’s Bianca Andreescu (2019 US Open) and Poland’s Iga Swiatek (2020 French Open), both players claiming their maiden Major titles at the age of 19.

The oldest champion in this duration was Germany’s Angelique Kerber, who beat Serena to clinch the 2018 Wimbledon title at the age of 30. The average would decrease even further when either Raducanu, who hasn’t dropped a set despite playing three qualifying matches apart from the six in the main draw, or Fernandez, who has beaten three of the current top five players on her way to the final, wins on Sunday.

Leylah Fernandez - the giant slayer making heads turn at the US Open this year

The average age of a runner-up during this time has been 28 years where it should be noted that on five occasions, it was either Serena or her sister Venus, both competing for the titles after the age of 35 years.

While nine of the finals have finished in straight sets, eight have gone the distance. Whenever they have gone to three sets, the younger player has always managed to hold the nerves better; barring two finals, 2018's Australian Open and French Open.

As far as the multiple-title winners are concerned, Japan’s Naomi Osaka, 23, leads the way with four trophies, the first of which came when she beat Serena 6-2, 6-4 in the 2018 US Open final. She is followed by Australia’s Ashleigh Barty, 25, and Simona Halep, 29, both winning two titles each.

With the emergence of players such as Raducanu, Fernandez, Swiatek, Andreescu and even Coco Gauff, who reached the fourth round at the 2019 Wimbledon as a 15-year-old, it can safely be said the young guns are here to stay!

The US Open Women’s Singles final match between Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez can be live-streamed on Disney+Hotstar on Sunday, September 12, at 01:30 am (IST).

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