US Open: High school tennis phenoms are heading for a final showdown

Written by By Chloe Kerr, CNN

They’ve never met on the tennis court, but 18-year-old Emma Raducanu from Belarus and 17-year-old Leylah Fernandez from the US will go head-to-head in Monday’s US Open women’s final in New York.

Ranked No. 120 and No. 121 respectively in the WTA player rankings, Raducanu and Fernandez have progressed to the pinnacle of the women’s tennis world, fulfilling the fate of many other young players from eastern Europe: They’re both in their home countries’ first Grand Slam final.

“That’s the most exciting thing for me,” Fernandez said in a press conference after her semifinal win on Saturday, the competition’s third and final day.

High and mighty

Fernandez and Raducanu are playing in their first women’s singles final. Credit: Stefano Rellandini/Livio Grassi/USTA

The two have only met once previously, an exhibition game held in March between the top eight juniors in the world. Since then, both juniors have jumped steadily up the rankings, reaching their highest together in early May, just before the tournament in New York began.

Both will return to Belarus for the final preparations. Fernandez, who visited her mother on Sunday, is scheduled to play her third round match in New York before flying home later that day. Raducanu has returned to the United States after her match, which will be her fourth in a row in New York and her first Grand Slam final, after winning her third round match on Saturday.

Resisting the lure of Team Tennis

Fernandez and Raducanu are one of the two teams representing their countries at the US Open. Credit: Stefan Postles/Getty Images North America/Getty Images

Raducanu was a teenager when she moved to the US from Belarus in 2013 to train full-time, and won two tournaments in her first year in the US. She has since developed an online presence, gaining more than 45,000 followers on Instagram and 29,000 on Twitter.

While Fernandez’s talent was recognized early on, making the transition from Team Tennis to real tennis has not been an easy process for her. After hitting the highest amateur ranking of any American in the world in 2017, she said she’s had to work hard to get her ranking up again.

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