In the beginning, it looks like the magical run will come to an end. Leyla Fernandez started slow and was down 4-1 in the first set, but the Canadian of Ecuadorean and Filipino origin again showed her poise and maturity beyond her age to defeat world no. 2 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-4, and make it to the 2021 US Open final.
She will now face Emma Raducanu of Great Britain, a teenager who vanquished Maria Sakkari of Greece in the other semifinals. Raducanu made history by becoming the first player, male or female in the Open Era, to go through the qualifying rounds and reach the final of the US Open.
Sabalenka came out blazing with strong serves to dominate the match early, winning 12 of the first 14 points to take an early 3-0 lead. Fernandez appears tentative and nervous, and it looked like it would be a one-sided match for Sabalenka. But Fernandez shook off all jitters and found her form, and with the strong support of the crowd, won 7 straight points in games 6 and 7 to bring the first set to a tie-breaker and won when she served out the tie-break after a Sabalenka double fault.
Sabalenka took control early in the second set, breaking on game 1 and holding her serve to take an early 2-0 lead. But she struggled after this, and Fernandez was able to level the set at 2-2. It was again tied at 3-3 and 4-4 before Sabalenka broke Fernandez, then served for the set and won 6-4, tying the game at one set apiece.
In the third set, both players held serve in the first 5 games before Leyla broke Sabalenka at the pivotal moment to go ahead at 4-2. But Sabalenka is not finished. She fought back with a break and held her serve, levelling the set at 4-4. Fernandez had her serve, then broke after a long Sabalenka forehand to take the set 6-4 and the match, joining champion Bianca Andreescu as a Canadian teenager to reach the finals of the Us Open. Andreescu was also 19 when she won in 2019.
It is now a teenager versus teenager final between Fernandez (19 years old) and Raducanu (18 years old) on Saturday, heralding a new breed of young players on the center stage of professional tennis. Both played together in junior tennis since they were 11 or 12, and the world anticipates whose magical run will continue in the 2021 US Open finals.
by: DEAN DE JESUS, FWH, September 9, 2021