Thursday, September 9, 2021

Teens Raducanu, Fernandez advance to U.S. Open final

Emma Raducanu lost in the first round of last month's Mubadala Silicon Valley
Classic in San Jose. Photo by Mal Taam
   Emma Raducanu, 18, of Great Britain became the first qualifier in tennis history to reach a Grand Slam final, outslugging No. 17 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece 6-1, 6-4 tonight in the U.S. Open.
   Raducanu, ranked No. 150, has not lost a set in her nine matches at Flushing Meadows. Only once, in the second round of qualifying, has she dropped as many as five games in a set.
   Raducanu is scheduled to face unseeded Leylah Fernandez, a Canadian left-hander who turned 19 on Monday, for the first time as professionals on Saturday at 1 p.m. PDT (ESPN). It will be the first all-teenage major final since Serena Williams, 17, defeated Martina Hingis, 18, in the 1999 U.S. Open.
   Fernandez, ranked No. 73, topped No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-4 for her fourth consecutive three-set victory over a seed. Fernandez ousted No. 3 seed Naomi Osaka, who won her second U.S. Open title last year, in the third round, No. 16 seed Angelique Kerber, the 2016 U.S. Open champion, in the round of 16 and No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina in the quarterfinals.
   The steady Fernandez broke at love for the match with the help of two consecutive double faults. Sabalenka, powerful but mercurial, led 3-0 and 4-1 in the first set and had a set point with Fernandez serving at 5-6 but netted a forehand. 
   Fernandez will try to become the second 19-year-old Canadian in three years to win the U.S. Open. Bianca Andreescu stunned Serena Williams in 2019.
   Raducanu beat Fernandez 6-2, 6-4 in the second round of the Wimbledon juniors in 2018.
   Neither Raducanu nor Fernandez has come out of nowhere.
   In July, Raducanu became the youngest British woman to advance to the round of 16 at Wimbledon in the Open Era, which began in 1968. Under massive pressure in her home country, she retired while trailing Ajla Tomljanovic 4-6, 0-3 because of difficulty breathing.
   In her first match after Wimbledon, Raducanu lost to Zhang Shuai of China 6-3, 6-2 in the opening round of the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic as a wild card.
   Fernandez reached a WTA final at 17 and won one at 18.
   Sakkari and Sabalenka —San Jose runners-up in 2018 and 2019, respectively — fell to 0-2 in Grand Slam semifinals. Sakkari had a match point in a marathon loss to eventual champion Barbora Krejcikova in the French Open in June, and Sabalenka also lost 6-4 in the third set to Karolina Pliskova at Wimbledon in July.
   Men's doubles — Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury reached their third Grand Slam final but first outside of Australia.
   The fourth-seeded Ram, a 37-year-old volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley from Carmel, Ind., and Salisbury, 28, of Great Britain beat wild cards Steve Johnson of Redondo Beach in the Los Angeles region and Sam Querrey, a 33-year-old San Francisco native, 7-6 (5), 6-4.
   Ram and Salisbury, the Australian Open champions in 2020 and runners-up this year, won their previous two matches in third-set tiebreakers. They saved four match points against unseeded Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell of Australia in the quarterfinals.
    Ram and Salisbury are set to play No. 7 seeds Jamie Murray of Great Britain and Bruno Soares of Brazil on Friday at 9 a.m. PDT (ESPN2). Murray, Andy's older brother, and Soares topped No. 8 seeds John Peers of Australia and Filip Polasek of Slovakia 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.
   Soares is playing in his first tournament since Wimbledon. He underwent an appendectomy upon arriving at the Tokyo Olympics.
   Murray and Soares won the Australian Open and U.S. Open in 2016. Soares also prevailed at Flushing Meadows last year with Mate Pavic of Croatia.
   Ram and Salisbury beat Murray and Soares 6-4, 7-6 (2) in the semifinals of this year's Australian Open in their only previous meeting.
   Salisbury is trying to become the first man to win the men's doubles and mixed doubles titles in the same year at the U.S. Open since Bob Bryan (Stanford, 1997-98) in 2010, according to 
   Boys doubles —Wild cards Nicholas Godsick of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and Ethan Quinn of Fresno, Calif., will have to wait one day to play their quarterfinal against No. 3 seeds Sean Cuenin and Sascha Gueymard Wayenburg of France. The match was postponed by rain.
   Godsick's parents are Mary Joe Fernandez, a former top-five player in singles and doubles who now works as an ESPN commentator, and Tony Godsick, Roger Federer's agent.

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