Ravishing Raducanu rises in NYC; maiden major for Medvedev
Updated: Jan 24, 2022
The final Grand Slam of 2021 served up a storm as two maiden Singles champions were crowned in New York City. Emma Raducanu, 18, and Daniil Medvedev, 25, each collected their maiden Slam titles in addition to $2,5million apiece.
Raducanu & Medvedev become the 1st pair of first-time winners at the same major since Roland Garros 2004.
The 141st US Open saw the return of capacity crowds at the Billie Jean King Tennis Centre, after the 2020 edition prohibited in-house attendances due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Arthur Ashe Stadium can accomodate roughly 25,000 spectators, with Louis Armstrong 14,000.
The final Grand Slam of 2021 saw a handful of high-profile absentees including six-time US Open winner Serena Williams and sister Venus (a two-time winner at Flushing Meadows).
Serena withdrew as she continues rehabilitation on a torn hamstring, while Venus pulled out citing a leg injury.
Serena turns 40 later this month and remains the incumbent of the 2nd-most Grand Slam titles with 23 – one shy of Margaret Court's all-time record of 24 Slam wins.
Also missing the US Open this year through injury was Aussie Open runner-up Jennifer Brady, while world no.5 Sofia Kenin missed the tournament after she tested positive for Covid.
Top seed Ashleigh Barty and defending champion Naomi Osaka crashed out in the 3rd Round, both going down to unseeded opposition.
6th seed and 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu lost out in the Round of 16 to Maria Sakkari. No.17 seed Sakkari also eliminated 10th seed Petra Kvitova in the round prior, beating the two-time Wimbledon winner in straight sets.
Sakkari later dumped out 4th seed Karolina Pliskova in the quarters to advance to a second major semifinal this year.
British teenager Emma Raducanu qualified for the main draw without dropping a set and continued to the Round of 16 still without conceding a set.
Raducanu met Belinda Bencic in the quarters, with the Swiss no.11 seed recently on the back of winning gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The teen continued as she meant to go on and toppled Bencic in straight sets to reach her first semifinal at only her second major tournament.
Raducanu became the youngest semifinalist at Flushing Meadows since Maria Sharapova in 2005.
Reigning Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova reached the quarterfinals without dropping any sets, but the Czech was ousted by 2nd seed Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets in the last 8.
Unseeded Leylah Fernandez celebrated her 19th birthday in style as she cruised into her first major semi-final after disposing of 5th seed Svitolina in front of a packed Arthur Ashe arena.
The teen had previously edged two-time US Open winner Osaka in the 3rd Round as well as three-time Grand Slam champ Angelique Kerber in the Round of 16.
Fernandez kept her momentum rolling as she overcame 5th seed Elina Svitolina in the quarter-finals, which saw the teenager's career prize money doubled as she reached the last 4 in New York.
This was already Fernandez' best return at a major, after exiting this year's Australian Open and Wimbledon in the first round, although it was to get a whole lot better for the Canadian-born Filipino star.
For Sabalenka, 23, it was a second successive semi at a major after progressing to her maiden semi appearance at Wimbledon in July. In the corresponding fixture it was also a second semi encounter for Sakkari, 26, after reaching the last 4 at Roland Garros earlier this year.
Meanwhile, a first semifinal awaited teens Fernandez and Raducanu.
The average age of this year's Ladies' singles semifinalists was 21 years & 10 months.
In the semis the two teens incredibly prevailed: Raducanu beat Sakkari 6-1, 6-4 and Fernandez edged Sabalenka in a deciding set.
Ahead of the final Slam of the year, finalist Fernandez was ranked 73rd in the world, and this was just her second year competing at the US Open.
Ranked 336th at the time of her breakthrough last 16 run at Wimbledon this year, Raducanu has since set several records and re-written the history books on several fronts:
- first British female in a major singles final in 44 years,
- first British female to reach a US Open final in 53 years,
- youngest British Grand Slam finalist in 62 years.
A first all-unseeded Championship match in the Open Era awaited, coinciding with the 8th all-teenage Grand Slam Final. The 1999 US Open Final was the last contested by two teenage competitors – in context neither of Saturday’s finalists were born at the time.
A competitive, compelling and captivating Championship match in which both finalists displayed courageous performances especially given their age and lack of experience at Grand Slam level. Ultimately it was a calculated, fearless and dominant display by Raducanu who won a maiden Grand Slam crown at the age of 18 years 10 months; Raducanu beat Fernandez 6-4, 6-3.
Raducanu is the first qualifier in history to both reach and win a Slam final, and she notably did so without conceding a set across 9 matches including qualifiers.
Over the past decade and a half there have been completely contrasting dynamic between the men’s and ladies' tours in respect to Grand Slam champions.
Since 2005 there have been 67 Grand Slams to date, and there have been 28 different winners amongst the ladies' tour, with Serena Williams the most prized individual with 17 majors in that time span (23 in total).
Meanwhile only 10 different champions have been crowned on the men's tour, with a combined 56 majors in the last 16 years won by either Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal.
Federer and Nadal, each a 20-time major winner, both withdrew from the US Open this year, as did defending champion Dominic Thiem.
Thiem has been recovering from a wrist injury whilst Nadal pulled out due to a season-ending foot injury. A fortnight after his 40th birthday Federer announced via social media that he, too, would not be partaking in the US Open due to persistent knee problems.
Coming into this year's event Djokovic was in search of a calendar Grand Slam after scooping the Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon earlier this year.
The pick of the bunch in the opening round saw Andy Murray share a court with Roland Garros finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas. Three-time Slam winner Murray took the opening set but no.3 seed Tsitsipas restored parity winning the second set in a tiebreaker.
Murray took the lead for a second time but failed to keep a cool and composed head, as the 23-year-old Greek rallied back to advance to the 2nd Round after a five-set thriller.
7th seed Denis Shapovalov crashed out in the 2nd Round, with Tsitsipas exiting one round later – both to unseeded Spanish opponents.
In the 3rd Round 5th seed Andrey Rublev lost in five sets to unseeded American Frances Tiafoe.
20-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner defeated Gael Monfils also in a five-setter.
In the Round of 16 Sinner met Olympic gold medalist Alexander Zverev, and it was the German no.4 seed who advanced in straight sets.
Last month Zverev became the first German to win Olympic gold since Steffi Graf in 1988. Graf won the Golden Slam that year at just 19 years of age, consisting of all four majors and Olympic gold.
In the last 8 Zverev clashed with Lloyd Harris and toppled the South African also in straight sets.
Harris's quarter-final appearance is his best return at a Grand Slam.
Also in the quarters Daniil Medvedev won against Dutch player Botic van de Zandschulp, the only player to win a set against the Russian at the tournament.
In a repeat of this year's Wimbledon Men's Final, Djokovic met Matteo Berrettini in the quarterfinals in NYC. Djokovic breezed into the semis after the Serb overcame Berrettini in four sets.
21-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime progressed to his first major semifinal, bettering his quarter-final cameo at Wimbledon this year. Auger-Aliassime became the youngest male player to reach successive Slam quarter-finals since Juan Martin del Potro did so in 2009 at 20 years of age.
Coached by Toni Nadal, the lanky Canadian prodigy was the only semifinalist not to have previously played in a Grand Slam final, with Medvedev a two-time finalist coming into the last 4 in New York.
Not including Djokovic, the remaining three semifinalists have an average age of 23 years & 8 months.
Djokovic fought Zverev in an enthralling 5-set match. Zverev reached his maiden Slam final at last year's tournament in a losing effort to Thiem. This time out Zverev could not outdo the Serbian in a riveting dual, as Djokovic had berth to a 31st major final, his 9th in NYC.
Auger-Aliassime was silenced by Medvedev in straight sets as the 2nd seed advanced to a 3rd Grand Slam Championship match.
Sunday's Final delivered a result very few expected, as Medvedev stunned an emotional Djokovic in straight sets as the 2019 runner-up ousted top seed Djokovic – 6,4, 6,4, 6-4.
Medvedev is only the second male player born in the 1990s to win a Grand Slam, after Thiem also won the US Open last year.
Medvedev ultimately denied Djokovic a calendar Grand Slam of winning all majors on offer, a feat only previously achieved by Rod Laver in the 1960s.
Djokovic has won just three of his nine US Open Finals, statistically his tied-worst success rate at a major together with Roland Garros (P6 W2 L4).
Medvedev and Raducanu each pocketed a cheque for $2,5million, while runners-up Djokovic and Fernandez bagged half that amount.
Karolina Pliskova served 64 aces in 5 matches, 25 more than next-best Sabalenka.
24-year-old Reilly Opelka served the most aces with 109 across four matches. Lloyd Harris served 100 aces in five matches. The 6ft11in American (Opelka) was also one of three players to serve a blistering speed of 227km/h, sharing that feat with countryman John Isner and Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany.
In the latest WTA rankings Raducanu has risen by 127 spots to sit in 23rd place. Fernandez jumps 45 positions to occupy 28th.
Osaka dropped from 3rd to 5th. Pliskova, Svitolina and Krejcikova all gained places.
In the ATP rankings, absentees Nadal and Thiem each conceded a place or two.
Rublev and Berretini are now ranked no.5 & no.7, respectively – a personal highest rank for both of them. Auger-Aliassime rose four places to 11th, also a career-best for the 21-year-old.
Grand Slam champions 2021:
AUS Open N. Djokovic / N. Osaka D. Medvedev / J. Brady
French Open N. Djokovic / B. Krejcikova S. Tsitsipas / A. Pavlyuchenkova
Wimbledon N. Djokovic / A. Barty M. Berrettini / K. Pliskova
US Open D. Medvedev / E. Raducanu N. Djokovic / L. Fernandez