US Open final between teenagers Raducanu, Fernandez: it’s the women’s time to shine

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US Open final between teenagers Raducanu, Fernandez: it’s the women’s time to shine

With the women’s final at the U.S. Open outshining the men’s ratings by over 30 percent, it’s an indication that tennis fandom has shifted significantly towards the women’s game. The final between exciting teenagers Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez drew in 3.4 million viewers compared with just 2.7 M for the match between Novak Djokovic and winner Daniil Medvedev.

Granted there have been several first-time slam winners on the women’s side over the last few years, including other young players who were just as ambitious.

Bianca Andreescu’s maiden slam at the 2019 U.S. Open for one as well as Sofia Kenin’s breakthrough victory at last year’s Australian Open was another. But both players have had difficulty sustaining that kind of momentum during an admittedly difficult year where the world still suffers under a global pandemic.

However, watching the two young players who battled it out on Saturday in the women’s final, you had the feeling that Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez are heralding a new era in women’s tennis, and it’s generated a wave of exhilaration for the game.

For the better part of the last two decades, tennis has been dominated by the GOAT debate among three players: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic was in the final that pulled in less viewers than the women’s, but with Federer and Nadal sitting out the rest of the season, the GOAT debate for the latter part of the tennis year has centered around just one GOAT, Djokovic.

And let’s be honest, he’s the least popular among the three legends. And the lack of a rival didn’t help viewership during the men’s final. Most probably assumed that Djokovic would make history without much fight from Medvedev.

The Russian’s improbable win went against the history-making playbook of Djokovic’s just didn’t produce the thrill that Raducanu’s historical feet did. Her win was a first for a qualifier to make it all the way to the finish line at a slam.

Watching her take on another teenage rival, Fernandez, who had dazzled fans throughout the slam fortnight, fearlessly beating higher ranked opponents on her way to the final, and what viewers got was the makings of a new astonishing rivalry on the horizon.

Contrast the 2017 Australian Open final between Federer and Nadal—affectionately referred to as “Fedal” by their fans—and the Raducanu-Fernandez final rivaled the Fedal comeback Down Under in numbers, which had been the highest rated AO final in ten years.

For women, Serena Williams has been the undisputed GOAT for the better part of a decade now, with no real rivals playing during her time that were in the same competition. What’s been missing among the female counterparts has been a healthy crop of competitors bringing an electric unpredictability.

Think back to the competitiveness between legends Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert—born just two years apart from each other—and think back on how exhilarating their final matches could be. Raducanu and Fernandez are 18 and 19 and we can see the possibility of that kind of intriguing rivalry on the horizon.

"I think the generational change has happened,” said Boris Becker, according to Eurosport. “The younger generation has taken over now. We just talked about the queen, Serena Williams, for a very long time, because it was just her.

Only [Leylah] Fernandez and Raducanu deserve to be the center of attention now, and that will continue for the next few weeks. The young guns bring everything the tennis fan wants”.

The female talent pool of players has been making strides for the last few years.

But rising stars Raducanu and Fernandez gave us a teenage dream final that delightfully redefined the future of tennis competition. And it’s an exceptional one.