Monday, October 25, 2021

Mendoza: Teenage revolution in U.S. Open

All Write

The sports world is changing.

First, we had the Tokyo 2020 Olympics surviving the deadliest pandemic in 104 years. And in Tokyo on July 26, the Philippines won its first Olympic gold medal in 97 years, thanks to weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz of Zamboanga.

And now this.

Only yesterday, a teenage revolution shook the U.S. Open women’s tennis to its very foundations.

Leylah Fernandez, turning 19 only last Sept. 6, outlasted Aryna Sabalenka, 7-6, 4-6, 6-4, after imposing a brilliant 52-23 edge in unforced errors in an epic semifinal conquest audaciously achieved in two hours and 21 minutes.

The 5-foot-6 Fernandez, attributing her new-found fame to “the maple syrup,” put a dash of class to her triumph by breaking Sabalenka in winning at love the match-clinching 10th game of the third set, unleashing an overhead smash to the roar of a New York crowd known to lustily applaud an underdog when it sees one.

In victory, Fernandez continued her sensational giant-killing run as the power-hitting Sabalenka became the fourth blue chip to get slayed in a six-game winning streak by the Canada-born phenom with a Filipino for a mother.

Fernandez, seeded 73rd, added Sabalenka, the 23-year-old No. 2 from Belarus, to her voracious collection of choice cuts that included defending champion Naomi Osaka of Japan, three-time Grand Slam titlist Angelique Kerber of Germany and No. 5 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.

After losing the first set by squandering a 4-1 lead to drop a 7-6 tiebreaker (7-3), Sabalenka groped for form, especially in the third-set decider, putting to waste her emphatic 6-1, 6-4 disposal of reigning French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals.

And just when we thought the party was over, a gate-crasher materialized.

Emma Raducanu, ranked 125th, was also not done with her own Broadway show, eliminating Greece’s No. 17 Maria Sakkari, 6-1, 6-4, to arrange the second championship showdown between teeners in 22 years.

At 18, Raducanu, the Briton whose father is a Romanian married to a Chinese, became the first qualifier in history to make it to the U.S. Open final.

Thus, the Raducanu-Fernandez title clash replicates the battle of teeners in 1999 between Martina Hingis, 18, and Serena Williams, 17, with Williams prevailing to gun up her run of 23 Grand Slam titles.

I can’t wait for the second coming.


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