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Crowd picks a side in historic teen face-off

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British 18-year-old Raducanu, the first qualifier ever to reach a Grand Slam final, will attempt to become the first British woman to win a Grand Slam title since Virginia Wade at Wimbledon in 1977.The crowd picked a side early in the first set, with chants of “Let’s go Leylah” ringing loudly around Arthur Ashe Stadium.Watch Live Coverage of the 2021 US Open from Round 1 to the Finals with ESPN on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >She has not dropped a single set on her to way to the final at Arthur Ashe Stadium.Fernandez, a 19-year-old Canadian left-hander ranked 73 in the world, has beaten defending champion Naomi Osaka, second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka and fifth seed Elina Svitolina on her passage to the final.“It will be a tough match for sure. She’s playing great tennis,” Raducanu said. “But I think I’m also playing very good tennis. I’m excited to go out there.” It is the first time teenagers have met in a Grand Slam final since 17-year-old Serena Williams beat Martina Hingis, 18, at the 1999 US Open.One will walk off with her first Grand Slam trophy on the same court where Williams, a 23-time Slam winner about to turn 40, took her first 22 years ago.“There’s no limit to my potential, to what I can do,” Fernandez said. “Every day we just got to keep working hard, we got to keep going for it. Nothing’s impossible. I’m just glad right now everything’s going well.” If she triumphs, 150th-ranked Raducanu would become the first British woman to win the US Open since Wade in 1968. She is the youngest Slam finalist since 17-year-old Maria Sharapova won at Wimbledon in 2004.“I wasn’t really sure how my game was going to be,” Raducanu said. “My tennis level has surprised me in the way I’ve managed to step up against some of the best players in the world.“I knew I had some sort of level inside of me that was similar to these girls, but I didn’t know if I was able to maintain it over a set or two. To be able to play the best players in the world and beat them, I honestly can’t believe it.” Fernandez said: “I believed in my game, but it also has helped me open my eyes that I can win against these top players.“I’m just glad to have this experience and see where my tennis level is at.”Raducanu’s unexpected charge to the final has created high excitement in the British media, starved of tennis success since Andy Murray’s career went into decline.“Greatness awaits Raducanu in showdown that heralds bright, exciting generation,” was the headline in The Times on Saturday.Both Fernandez and Raducanu have created a true-life fantasy to rival any Disney storyline.“One word that really stuck to me is ‘magical’ because not only is my run really good but also the way I’m playing right now,” Fernandez said.“I’m just having fun. I’m trying to produce something for the crowd to enjoy. I’m glad that whatever I’m doing on court, the fans are loving it and I’m loving it, too.“We’ll say it’s magical.” The pair first played each other in under-12 events.“Since then we’ve both come very far in our games and as people,” Raducanu said. “I’m sure it’s going to be extremely different to when we last encountered each other. But we’re both playing good tennis so it’ll be a good match.” Raducanu and Fernandez have found success at an early stage of their careers, but Sabalenka warned after Fernandez beat her that there is a tough road ahead, as the mental health struggles that have beset Osaka have shown.“The question is when you will start to understand what’s going on and where you are, how good can you deal with all these expectations and this level, all this pressure,” Sabalenka said.With AFP

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