The final Grand Slam event of the year put Montreal athletes in the spotlight
The 2021 U.S. Open Tennis Championships were held in New York City, but it was the Montreal-natives that captivated the North American masses at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
The 141st edition of the fourth and final Grand Slam event of the year saw Canadian Leylah Annie Fernandez reach the women’s finals against Great Britain’s Emma Raducanu. The 19-year-old Fernandez lost in straight sets rather convincingly but would climb from 73rd in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) rankings before the tournament to 28th following her inspiring finals run.
On the other hand, the 18-year-old Raducanu went from qualifier to champion on Saturday, winning all her matches without dropping a single set. She also became the youngest female Grand Slam champion since Maria Sharapova in 2004.
Here’s some more historical bombshells about their meeting on Saturday; Raducanu and Fernandez’s matchup was the first major final between two teenagers since Serena Williams, 17, beat Martina Hingis, 18, at the 1999 U.S. Open. It was also the first finals in the professional era, which began in 1968, to feature two unseeded women.
So it’s safe to say the women stole the show, but what about the men?
Montreal’s very own Felix Auger-Aliassime made an improbable and exciting run to the semifinals but lost to the eventual tournament winner on the men’s side, Russia’s Daniil Medvedev. Even so, Auger-Aliassime overcame a big hurdle in his young career by making it as far as he did.
If the women’s final was refreshing and exhilarating, the men’s final was predictable simply by comparison: world number one Novak Djokovic against the number two ranked Medvedev.
But the competitive stakes couldn’t have been higher.
Djokovic was chasing something that hadn’t been done in over 50 years; a calendar Grand Slam. The Serbian tennis icon won the first three majors of the year coming into the tournament, while Medvedev was looking to cement his place in history by winning his first Grand Slam.
Medvedev won, an outcome that wasn’t entirely out of the question given his status as number two in the world. What was shocking to most spectators was how dominant he looked against Djokovic in his victory by straight sets. Medvedev dictated the finals with his serve and never seemed phased despite the pressure of the moment.
Over the past few years, Canadian tennis players have shown an ever-increasing ability to perform well on the biggest stages in the sport, displaying not only the consistency it takes to succeed but also the skill needed to be the best.
The 2021 U.S. Open was another feather to Canada’s impressive tennis resume, and I’m excited to see how the athletes and the nation’s fanbase develop from here.