Black swans Raducanu and Fernandez conquer New York


Black swans conquer New York: teenage sensations Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez in the US Open final

With the British Emma Raducanu and the Canadian Leylah Fernandez, Serena Williams and Martina Hingis are two teenagers in the final of the US Open for the first time since 1999.

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray have won the big titles in the last two decades. If it wasn’t always about a record or an entry in the history books, men’s tennis would probably have played itself to death long ago. Because in sport there is almost nothing more boring and annoying than predictability.

It is completely different in women’s tennis. There you only know before a Grand Slam tournament that you don’t know anything, so many are eligible for victory. There was a time when Serena Williams was the dominant figure. But since her pregnancy in January 2017, the almost 40-year-old has been waiting for her 24th major title. Since then there have been 12 different winners at 17 Grand Slam tournaments. Only Naomi Osaka (4 titles), Ashleigh Barty and Simona Halep (2 each) triumphed several times.

Leylah Fernandez eliminates Arina Sabalenka, the last favorite in the field to win the US Open.

US Open

Like Serena Williams and Martina Hingis once did

There will also be a premiere at the US Open: with British qualifier Emma Raducanu (18, WTA 150), who prevailed in the quarter-finals against Olympic champion Belinda Bencic and has not yet lost a set, and Canadian Leylah Fernandez (19, WTA 73), two teenagers face each other in the finals in New York for the first time since 1999: At that time, Serena Williams won against Martina Hingis.

Serena Williams in her first US Open win in 1999.

Serena Williams in her first US Open win in 1999.


Recently, women’s tennis was not only lacking in tingling rivalries, but also in formative figures. With Williams, Angelique Kerber, Karolina Pliskova, Garbine Muguruza, Simona Halep, Caroline Wozniacki, Naomi Osaka and Ashleigh Barty, no fewer than eight players have topped the world rankings since spring 2017, while Djokovic, Nadal and Federer were among the men only three of them.

You have to see it this way: These players don’t lack anything, but they are not figures like Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Serena Williams were or still are. They are something like black swans, as once sketched them by the Roman poet Juvenal: extremely rare, completely improbable, completely surprising and completely random.

Roots in Europe, Asia and South America

In the meantime, only two players who are supposed to close this gap have been identified: Coco Gauff, who is still only 17, and Naomi Osaka, 22, who seems to be questionable as to whether and how long her career will last. since she made public that she was struggling with depression. Now it’s the turn of Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez, who are conquering New York in these weeks.

Whether and when Naomi Osaka's career will continue is open.

Whether and when Naomi Osaka’s career will continue is open.

Frank Franklin Ii / AP

Raducanu and Fernandez have amazing biographical parallels: Both were born in Canada in 2002 and both have an Asian mother. Raducanu’s mother is from China, the father from Romania, they emigrated to London when Raducanu was two years old. Fernandez’s mother is from the Philippines, the father from Ecuador. Unlike Raducanu, who plays for Great Britain, left-handed Fernandez competes for Canada. Both have known each other from an early age. In 2018 they met in the junior tournament at Wimbledon, Raducanu prevailed.

In the summer Raducanu still went to school

In the summer, Raducanu was still number 338 in the world and reached the round of 16 on her Grand Slam debut at Wimbledon. At the US Open, she stayed without a set and is the first qualifier in the final of a Grand Slam tournament. Until the summer, she had not competed in any tournaments for 18 months because she wanted to concentrate on graduating from school during the pandemic instead of going to tournaments abroad. That paid off: she graduated with top marks.

With a two-set win against the Greek Maria Sakkari, Emma Raducanu advanced into the final of the US Open.

US Open

Fernandez advanced to the final with wins against Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber, Elina Switolina and Arina Sabalenka and then said: “All the blood, all the tears, the sacrifices and the hard work were worth it.” Regardless of whether she will win the US Open in the end, Raducanu should also be gilded by sponsors in the next few months: So far, she is “only” under contract with Wilson and Nike.

Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez are perhaps exactly what women’s tennis has been missing for a number of years: black swans.

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