Queen Emma reigns supreme as Medvedev ends Djokovic history bid
Emma Raducanu and Daniil Medvedev wrote their own individual pieces of grand slam history over the weekend as the US Open welcomed in a new era of slam champions. Alex Grant reports.
British tennis history was made on Saturday night as 18-year-old superstar Emma Raducanu became the first British female grand slam singles champion since Virginia Wade back 1977, beating fellow teen Laylah Fernandez 6-4 6-3.
Despite the inexperience of both competitors, the pair seemed largely unfazed from the off about the stage upon which they now found themselves.
Raducanu started the better, however, breaking the Canadian in a marathon second game before being pegged straight back. From that point on the first set followed serve until set points presented themselves for the young Brit at 5-4.
Then, on the fourth time of asking, Raducanu claimed the opener with a stunning forehand down the line, leaving her just one set away from history.
The second set started much the same as the first, with Raducanu racing to a 1-0 0-40 lead, but with history so very close, she faltered. Fernandez dug deep to hold and then broke as she looked to extend the contest, but the Brit soon recomposed herself to break straight back for 2-2 before racing to a 5-2 lead.
Raducanu saw two championship points come and go on a Fernandez serve but at 5-3, the drama really went up a notch.
As the Canadian found herself at break back point, the match was stopped with blood pouring from Raducanu’s knee after she injured herself sliding into a low backhand on the previous point.
An untimely stoppage but a necessary one, as the rules regarding players bleeding are abundantly clear – a fact the young Canadian seemed unaware of as Fernandez exchanged heated words with the umpire.
Upon returning to the court with her knee patched up, Raducanu saved not one, but two break points before sealing it with an ace on her third championship point.
The 18-year-old fell to the ground as the realisation of her achievement set in. Britain’s 44-year wait for a female slam champion was over and with it Emma Raducanu had become the first qualifier, male or female, to win a major. All done without even dropping a set.
Speaking to former British star Tim Henman after, Raducanu expressed her joy at that moment, stating:
“It means everything to hold this trophy and I don’t want to let go right now.
“Yesterday there were weird feelings I couldn’t put my finger on, I think that’s just normal – when I came out it was business as usual, one point at a time. In the key moments I came out with some clutch serves and was changing direction as early as possible.”
On Sunday it was time for the men’s final as the 2021 slam season ended how it started in Australia, with a major final between world number one Novak Djokovic and the new world number two, Daniil Medvedev.
On that occasion in Melbourne, the Serbian dominated and he again entered the match with all the pressure as he looked to complete an unprecedented calendar slam (winning all four majors in the same year), a feat not achieved since the great Rod Laver in 1969.
Usually so adept at handling the weight of expectations, perhaps on this occasion it proved too much for the Serb, as Medvedev dominated from start to finish, running out as an emphatic winner 6-4 6-4 6-4.
For Djokovic, defeat also saw him stay level with his two great rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 major triumphs apiece.
For Medvedev, after many years of threatening to break through, he is finally a slam champion and afterwards, he admitted the victory coming against Djokovic made it all the sweeter:
“For the confidence and for my future career, knowing that I beat somebody who was 27-0 in a year in Grand Slams – I lost to him in Australia, he was going for huge history, and knowing that I managed to stop him it definitely makes it sweeter and brings me confidence for what is to come on hard courts so far, but let’s see about other surfaces.”
The 2022 grand slam battle has just become all the more fascinating with many questions to be answered.
Can Raducanu keep her feet on the ground and remain a consistent threat in the female game and can Medvedev continue to develop his game into an all-surface threat? Whilst for Djokovic, how will he react to his gut-wrenching disappointment and can the returning Nadal and Federer bounce back from their respective injuries to become a thorn in his side one again.