Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks ahead to the latest in tennis. Today, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews day 13 of the 2021 US Open.
Welcome to the age of parity in women’s tennis.
Look, that’s not just us saying this, it actually shows up in the numbers. We’ll get to the numbers in a bit, but we just want to say for now that if it feels like just about everyone can and does win in the WTA, it’s because it’s true.
– 22nd consecutive 1st-time Grand Slam semifinalist
– 75th since the introduction of the 32-seed system
US Open 2021
– 13th consecutive Major with at least 1 new semifinalist pic.twitter.com/vyn9tvSblX
— Diego Barbiani (@Diego_Barbiani) September 7, 2021
As you can see from the embedded tweet above, the numbers bear that out. It’s not merely that since Serena Williams announced her pregnancy after winning the 2017 Australian Open, women’s tennis has been wide open—though it is that. Consider that in the time since, players have competed at 18 different Grand Slam events. Including Saturday’s final, we will have seen 13 different players emerge victorious with a major to their name. That’s huge.
It’s huge, but it’s not merely Grand Slam titles either. The tweet above shows that someone new has now made their first major semifinal at the last 22 Grand Slam events in women’s tennis. It also shows that there have been 75 different players who have reached the final four at least once in the 20 years since tennis moved to the 32-seed system. Not only that, but only seven of the top 30 players currently on the WTA have not made it to at least one Grand Slam semifinal.
What does it all mean?
The future of women’s tennis is in great shape, is what we’re getting at. Sure, sometimes you get the occasional blockbuster match between players lacking name recognition, but one look at this year’s US Open will tell you that’s not a bad thing.
Because ultimately, what matters to the sport isn’t whether the most important matches are played between high-seeded players. On the men’s side, the four semifinalists were the No. 1, No. 2, No. 4 and No. 12 seeds: that didn’t prevent the first semifinal between Daniil Medvedev and Felix Auger-Aliassime from turning into a dud.
On the women’s side, meanwhile, the four semifinals were unknown teenager Leylah Fernandez, the No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka, the No. 17 Maria Sakkari, and the qualifier Emma Raducanu. The matches were excellent not because the matchups were excellent on paper. The matches were excellent, because the tennis was excellent.
That’s all that matters.
Day 13 preview
Read below for our prediction on who the winner of this year’s US Open women’s final will be. You can find the full day 13 schedule right here.
Arthur Ashe Stadium: Emma Raducanu vs Leylah Fernandez (Not before 4pm local time)
Hey, here’s a question for you. Which of the two teenager finalists’ runs at the US Open is your favourite? Is it the boisterous and determined Canadian, who has won not one, not two, not three, but four matches in a row in three sets? Is it the young player who turned 19 years old a few days ago and who’s defeated, in succession, the No. 3-ranked, No. 17-ranked, No. 5-ranked, and No. 2-ranked players to make the final? Is your favourite run young Leylah Fernandez’s?
Or maybe you prefer the calm and powerful teenager from Great Britain? Maybe you prefer the first player ever making the major of a final after going through the qualifying draw? Maybe you prefer the player who’s made the US Open final in only her fifth ever WTA main draw? Maybe you prefer the player who’s yet to drop a set in six matches? Is your favourite run young Emma Raducanu’s?
To be fair, there’s an easy answer to this question. Which of the two teenager finalists’ runs at the US Open is your favourite? The only possible answer is both.
About that final prediction
Here we are with the most unexpected US Open final of all unexpected finals??—the first one played between teenagers since seventh-seed Serena Williams beat first-seed Martina Hingis in Flushing Meadows in 1999. It should be a doozy. Let’s give the win to our countrywoman. Fernandez wins in three sets.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG