On September 11, 2021, Emma Raducanu, an 18-year-old from Britain, and Leylah Fernandez, a 19-year-old from Canada, battled in the 2021 Women’s US Open Final, becoming the first pair of teenagers to compete against one another in a major final since 1999.
In professional tennis, the top players are typically placed into the top 32 seeds of a tournament. The bracket is then organized so that the seeded players do not have to play another seeded player until the third round. No two unseeded players on either the men’s or women’s side have ever made it to a major final against each other before, but Raducanu (ranked 150th) and Fernandez, (ranked 73rd) changed that.
Fernandez fought hard after making her way through qualifiers and into the main bracket, defeating world No. 3 Naomi Osaka, No. 16 Angelique Kerber, No. 5 Elina Svitolina, and No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, each in three sets, in an insane run to the final. On the other hand, while Raducanu also had to advance through qualifiers before the main draw, she only had to face two double-digit seeds in the bracket and did not lose a single set on her way to the championship.
This past weekend was not the first time Raducanu and Fernandez have played each other. They met in the second round of the Wimbledon Junior Tournament just three years prior in a match that Raducanu won. In their first ever meeting as professional tennis players, Raducanu made tennis history by becoming the first qualifier to win a major tennis tournament. She defeated Fernandez 6-4, 6-3 to become the 2021 US Open Women’s Singles Champion.
The men’s title match was a different story, featuring the top two seeded players and the top two tennis players in the world, and even more was on the line.
Novak Djokovic, the #1 ranked men’s tennis player in the world, came into the final with one goal in mind: to make history. Djokovic was vying to become the first to complete the calendar-year Grand Slam (winning all four major tournaments: the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and US Open) since 1969, and to pass Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most majors in men’s tennis history (20).
On the other hand, his opponent Daniel Medvedev was hoping to capture his first ever Grand Slam title and avenge his loss to Djokovic in the Australian Open Final earlier this year. Medvedev (world rank 2) dominated his side of the bracket, dropping just one set in the entire tournament on his way to the US Open Final. On the other hand, Djokovic had dropped six sets — including the first set in four straight matches — and had his hands full in a five-set thriller against Alexander Zverev (world rank 4) just three nights prior. After the match, Djokovic vowed to give his next match his all: “I’m going to put my heart and my soul and my body and my head into [the final]. I’m going to treat the next match like it is the last match of my career.”
It wasn’t enough. Well aware of the history he was chasing, Djokovic was visibly frustrated at several points of the match. At one point, he slammed his racket into the court multiple times after failing to return a serve, leaving a noticeable dent. Medvedev, on the other hand, remained calm and collected, seeming to have an answer for every one of Djokovic’s runs. In the end, Medvedev stunned Djokovic (who was 27-0 in major tournaments this year) in straight sets 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, to earn his first-ever major victory.
Medvedev’s respect for his opponent was clear. “I never said this to anybody, but I’ll say it right now. For me, you are the greatest tennis player in history,” Medvedev professed towards Djokovic post-match. But in the final, when it mattered the most, Medvedev was simply better than “the greatest tennis player in history.” Dominating from start to finish, the 25-year-old captured the 2021 US Open Men’s Singles Title and denied Djokovic’s bid at glory.
Congratulations to both Emma Raducanu and Daniil Medvedev on their first-ever major championships and for capturing the 2021 US Open Singles Titles!