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UK News Emma Raducanu, 18, begins US Open final in front of 24,000 fans

00:15  12 september  2021
00:15  12 september  2021 Source:   dailymail.co.uk

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Emma Raducanu has taken to the court in the final of the US Open as she hopes to make history as the first British woman to win a major since Virginia Wade at Wimbledon 44 years ago.

The 18-year-old from Kent is taking on Leylah Fernandez, 19, in front of 24,000 fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York - the first all-teenage women's final at Flushing Meadows in 22 years.

On the line is a prize cheque for £1.8million - more than eight times Raducanu's current career earnings - as well as 2,000 ranking points, which would move the teenager up from her current standing of 150 to 23.

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The match was preceded by a poignant ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11, with a massive Stars and Stripes flag unfurled by female cadets, while a '9-11-01' stencil has been painted onto the court.

Speaking just before walking on court, Raducanu said: "The time has flown here in New York. I've just been taking it one match at a time and it has got me to the final.

"I'm going to go out there and enjoy it today. It's so exciting in my second grand slam to be in the final. I can't really believe it but I can't wait to get stuck in. I'm sure the crowd will be great so it will be a really positive experience."

Canadian Fernandez, 19, is also an unexpected finalist and her giant-killing run has included victories over former champions Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber and top-five seeds Aryna Sabalenka and Elina Svitolina.

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She said: "It's been incredible. I've been having a lot of fun on court, I've been playing well and I can't wait for the finals today. I think we're just going to go out there and have fun. We've both been playing incredibly well."

Raducanu, the first qualifier to ever reach a Grand Slam final, is being backed by millions back in the UK after she won widespread praise for her semi-final performance, including from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and footballer Marcus Rashford.

Bookmakers had Raducanu chalked up as the favourite at 4/7 - meaning a £10 bet would return just £15.70.

The match is being shown live on Channel 4 after a last-minute deal said to be worth £30 million was struck with Amazon amid feverish anticipation among the tennis-loving British public.

The atmosphere was electric at Raducanu's home tennis club in Beckenham, southeast London, where a viewing party was hosted - as they had done for her run at Wimbledon earlier this summer.

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Cheers and applause erupted as Raducanu spoke to the media before walking out onto the court, with several teenage fans saying they were sure she was going to win.

Suzanne Williams, her former strength and conditioning coach at Parklangley, said 'the sky is the limit', and that she is sure Raducanu will win tonight and Wimbledon the next time she competes.

Harry Bushnell, who coached her from the age of six to ten, said: 'As a coach, you want to coach someone that goes all the way so it's my first time of being involved in anybody that's gotten this far and it's an amazing feeling.'

Raducanu match is shown live on Channel 4 after '£30 million' deal with Amazon amid pressure to make historic event free to British public

Emma Raducanu's shot at US Open glory will be available to watch on free-to-air television after Amazon Prime agreed a deal with Channel 4 to share the women's final on Saturday.

The 18-year-old has captivated the nation with her exploits in New York and she takes on fellow teenager Leylah Fernandez in the showpiece event hoping to become the first British woman to win a grand slam in 44 years.

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Amazon's Prime Video streaming service has had exclusive broadcast rights in this country for the final grand slam of the year, but has agreed a deal - understood by the PA news agency to be seven figures - for the match to be shown on both Prime Video and Channel 4, maximising the viewing potential for one of the biggest sporting stories of the year.

And it has pledged to reinvest that money into British women's tennis to help fund the next generation of players.

'Emma's journey from qualification through to the US Open final at the age of 18 is a truly magical story for British sport and we think it's important that we extend our coverage to as many people as possible to support her in this historic moment for women's tennis,' said Alex Green, managing director of Prime Video Sport Europe.

'Young tennis talent such as Emma need the right support to become the stars we see today and we're delighted to be able to commit even more investment to the next generation of women's tennis in the UK.'

Channel 4's chief content officer Ian Katz said: 'Emma's meteoric rise to secure a place in the US Open final is just sensational.

'We're glad to have worked with Prime Video and pulled out all the stops to get it on air and I'm sure viewers will be thrilled at the prospect of watching Emma in this grand slam final.'

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Oliver Dowden, secretary of state for culture, media and sport, praised the deal.

His statement read: 'Tonight the whole country will be behind the British tennis sensation Emma Raducanu, so I am delighted that Amazon Prime and Channel Four have responded to our call to make this historic sporting moment free to watch so that as many of us as possible can cheer her on tonight.

'I applaud them for their quick work in making this happen and for the fact that the money involved in this deal will go direct into women's tennis in Britain to benefit and inspire the stars of the future.'

Speaking about the media pressure that Raducanu has been under since her performance at Wimbledon, he said: 'I just am obviously very protective of her, but I know she views pressure as a privilege.

'I think she conducts herself really well I know that she got a bit of stick at Wimbledon with the way that ended but I was always confident that she would go away from that, dust herself off and come back stronger.'

Not since Virginia Wade lifted her most famous title at Wimbledon in 1977 has a British woman even reached a grand slam singles final until now.

That the player to achieve the feat is an 18-year-old taking her first real steps in the professional game makes this one of the most extraordinary stories in all sport.

Ms Wade called Raducanu the 'real thing'. She told ITV this week: 'I can't tell you how exciting it is.

'We've been waiting such a long time for a British player on the women's side to really come through. Every time you watch her you think she's going to win every point out there. You don't even get that nervous. It was remarkable.

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'I'm sure she is the real thing, you don't get someone head and shoulders above that often and I think she's one of those.

'She's stopping all her opponents in their tracks and she's got an incredible future ahead of her. If it doesn't happen on Saturday (win a grand slam) it's going to happen sooner or later because she is really good.'

Even defeat would see Raducanu climb to 32nd in the rankings, putting her in contention to be seeded for her debut at the Australian Open in January.

She has already earned a minimum £900,000 from the nine matches she has won in New York.

Fernandez is just two months older than Raducanu and the pair have known each other since they competed at under-12 level.

'We first encountered each other because I was born in Toronto and she was Canadian, so we kind of made a little relationship back then,' said Raducanu, who won their only previous meeting in the girls' singles at Wimbledon three years ago.

'Obviously since then we've both come very far in our games and as people. I'm sure it's going to be extremely different to when we last encountered each other. But we're both playing good tennis so it will be a good match.'

The pair share an immigrant background. Raducanu, who moved to the UK when she was two, has a Romanian father and Chinese mother while Fernandez has Ecuadorian, Peruvian and Filipino heritage.

The Canadian is coached by her father Jorge, who believes the final is a significant moment for the women's game.

The former footballer said: 'I see they're both bringing a type of game that is not common right now on the circuit.

'I see that they bring a flair that is very unique for them. I'm glad that they're touching the Asian community. I think that's a huge opportunity in the women's game.

'I think it's just positive for the game. Obviously I want Leylah to win. That goes without saying. But I just think that the match-up and what we're seeing, those two ladies are touching a lot of young girls.

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'I'm getting messages about, 'Please pass this to Leylah', little girls saying, 'You're making us believe'. This can only be good for the tennis game and the WTA altogether.'

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