On Saturday afternoon, the event to watch for Canadian sports fans was the women's singles final at the US Open tennis tournament.
Just two years ago, a then-19-year-old Bianca Andreescu defeated Serena Williams for Canada's first ever Grand Slam tennis title (these are the top tournaments in the sport). Now another 19-year-old Canadian—Montreal's Leylah Annie Fernandez—was back in the running for the same championship.
Fernandez not only had an entire nation behind her, she had also quickly won the hearts of many fans in New York with her inspiring play and gutsy comebacks all tournament. In the end though, even she couldn't overcome her final opponent, the equally inspirational 18-year-old Emma Raducanu of Great Britain, who won 6–4, 6–3.
But while many Canadian fans might have felt a little sad at the result, they were proud of Raducanu, too. Though she lives in England, she was actually born in Toronto, Canada. How cool is that?
Let's dig deeper into one of the most unexpected finals in the history of tennis.
A pair of long shots
A Grand Slam singles event is enormous and features 128 players—that's a lot of top competition to get through.
Though Fernandez has been tipped as a future star for a couple years (including on this website!), she came into the Open ranked 73rd in the world. For a player at that level, winning even two matches in a Grand Slam would have been considered successful. Instead, she won six (it takes seven to win it all).
This run included victories against the defending champ (Japan's Naomi Osaka), a former semi-finalist (Ukraine's Elina Svitolina), and the world's number two ranked player (Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka). To win so many huge matches is rare in the sport—it's easy to see why so many people were instantly fans of her!
Emma Raducanu arrived at the tournament ranked 150th in the world. Her low ranking meant that she wasn't even directly accepted into what is called the 'main draw', or opening round. Instead, she had to play in a three-round qualifying tournament just to have the chance to be in the US Open at all! This means she was known as a 'qualifier'.
For a qualifier to actually win a Grand Slam they need to win ten matches—three qualifiers plus seven in the main draw. It's never happened in Grand Slam history.
Until Emma did it this past weekend.
One champ, two heroes
Cheering for the underdog is one of the reasons we love sports. There's nothing like seeing an unknown athlete come flying in from out of nowhere to face down a mighty champion. This kind of thing does happen, especially in tennis. But two underdogs? How do you choose?
Leylah faced the tougher players and had the more nail-biting comeback wins. But Emma had to win three more matches to reach the final—and she did so without losing a single set (in women's tennis, you win a match by being the first player to win two sets). And she also beat Tokyo 2020 gold medallist Belinda Bencic on her way to the title.
That's why no matter whom you were cheering for, it's pretty hard to feel sad about how this match went. They're both incredible players! By reaching the finals in the way they did, Emma and Leylah have become overnight sensations. We can't wait to cheer for them for years to come!
Check out their court interviews. We guarantee you'll feel inspired!