US Open semifinals: Emma Raducanu cruises, Leylah Fernandez pulls off another upset to reach finals

Britain's Emma Raducanu at the 2021 US Open
Britain's Emma Raducanu will take on Canada's Leylah Fernandez in the US Open final on Saturday. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

Emma Raducanu was bound and determined to set up an all-teenager final at the US Open on Thursday night.

The 18-year-old Great Britian star flew through her semifinal match at Arthur Ashe Stadium and beat No. 17 Maria Sakkari in straight sets 6-1, 6-4 to earn her spot in the final.

Raducanu is playing in her first US Open and just her second Grand Slam, following a Round of 16 appearance at the French Open earlier this year. She is now the first British woman to reach the final in New York since 1977, and it will be the first all-teenage women's final since Serena Williams and Martina Hingis squared off in 1999.

She’ll now take on Canada’s Leylah Fernandez in the finals on Saturday, after Fernandez pulled off yet another upset in her semifinals by beating No. 2 Aryna Sabelanka in a battle earlier on Thursday night.

Raducanu flew through her opening set, and needed just 36 minutes to put Sakkari away. She looked well on her way to closing out her sixth-straight match at the tournament in straight sets — including her previous two against American Shelby Rogers and No. 11 Belinda Bencic.

Sakkari, after struggling early on, came out hot in the second set and won a quick first game without dropping a point.

Raducanu, however, pulled out three straight wins to take a 3-1 lead and regain control of the match. Though Sakkari got a couple back, including one thanks to a wild nine minute game, it was just too late. Raducanu quickly closed things out to keep her straight sets streak alive and reach the final.

Leylah Fernandez of Canada celebrates her win over Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus at the US Open
Leylah Fernandez knocked off No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka on Thursday night, earning her spot in the US Open final on Saturday. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Fernandez’s dream run at the US Open isn’t over just yet.

Though she needed a second to get going on Thursday night, the Canadian teenager played her way into her first Grand Slam final.

Fernandez — who also beat No. 3 Naomi Osaka, No. 16 Angelique Kerber and No. 5 Elina Svitolina at the tournament — beat Sabelanka 7-6 (7-3), 4-6, 6-4 in a nearly two and a half hour match at Arthur Ashe Stadium, marking her fourth upset win of the tournament and her deepest run at a Grand Slam by far.

“I have no idea,” she said, laughing, when asked how she pulled off the win.

Fernandez rallies back after slow start

Sabalenka wasted absolutely no time on Thursday night. She jumped to a 3-0 lead almost instantly in their first set, and gave up just two points in those three games.Though Fernandez snuck out a win in the fourth game, Sabalenka won four straight points and finished the fifth game out with an ace to take the 4-1 lead.

That, however, is when Fernandez found her footing.

She rattled off wins in four of the next five games to tie things up 5-5 — clearly putting pressure on Sabalenka after an easy start. Fernandez forced a tiebreak, too, after winning a tight game to make it 6-6.

Fernandez, just like she has in all four of her previous tiebreaks in New York, quickly closed it out 7-3 to take the first set.

Sabalenka came out strong in the second set once again, and jumped up 2-0 early. But a big Fernandez rally brought her out of the hole and up 3-2. Sabalnnka, at the break, took her frustrations out on her racket by smashing it down onto the court and destroying it — something that earned her a code violation.

After a 2-2 start in the third, Fernandez pulled out a perfect fifth game before beating Sabalenka in a tight sixth to take a 4-2 lead — putting the finals within her reach. Though Sabalenka pushed back to tie things up once more, Fernandez held on and broke one final serve — which was full of Sabalenka errors — to take the third set 6-4 and secure her spot in the finals.

"I just wanted to be in the finals," she said. "I fought for every point. I don't know how I got that last point in, but I'm glad it was."