With his straight sets win, Radukanu did not miss a single set in the entire tournament.
“It was an incredibly difficult match, but I thought the level was very high,” Radukanu later congratulated Fernandez for the way he has played during the tournament. “And I hope we play each other in many more tournaments and hopefully the finals.”
Radukanu canceled a brief rally by Fernandez in the second set to win the title.
Up 5-2 in the second set, Radukanu needed just one more point to win it all twice. But Fernandez came back every time and eventually won the game to level 5-3.
Then at 5-3, Radukanu slashed her knee in a lunge at the baseline during one point, leaving her 30-40 behind in the game.
Serving Radukanu came back from break point to take the game and championship, following a medical timeout to care for a bleeding knee.
“Living in the moment, focusing on what I need to do and my process and mindset really helps in those tough times,” she said.
The fact that the 18-year-old reached first place in the final is astonishing. The fact that he won it – historic.
Radukanu, born to a Chinese mother and a Romanian father, had to go through three rounds of qualifying, even making it to the main draw, which is her second Grand Slam appearance.
The 18-year-old became the first qualifier in men’s or women’s tennis to reach a Grand Slam final – and now, she has become the first qualifier to win one.
How an upbringing created ‘mental power’
Incredibly, Radukanu didn’t miss a single set in the tournament – and as it progressed, he blew away more experienced opponents.
When asked how she maintains such composure in moments of high pressure, Radukanu credited the lessons she learned from her parents when she grew up.
“I think that peace and mental strength definitely comes from my upbringing,” she said before the final.
“I think both my parents have definitely instilled in me from a very young age to have a positive attitude on the court, because yes, when I was younger, it was definitely not an absolute if I had any. That was kind of bad attitude.”
But few people could have imagined this dream running in New York.
“Thanks everyone here, New York,” she said. “I love playing in front of you and you have really inspired me in some very difficult moments and I hope Leyla and I do well today.”
“I hope to be back here in the final and this time with a trophy – with the right trophy,” Fernandez congratulated Radukanu.
He also paid tribute to New York on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
“I know this day it was especially hard for New York and everyone across the United States,” said the Canadian teen. “I just want to say that I hope I can be as strong and resilient as New York has been over the past 20 years.”
A global British star is born
Her newfound success has fueled her popularity, especially in the UK where she has become a household name this summer.
Upon reaching the finals, the teenager was flooded with messages congratulating the rising superstar and wishing her luck.
Her achievements were also given royal acknowledgment over the past fortnight, with The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge sending their best wishes.
After her semi-final win, Radukanu said that a Chinese mother “definitely inspired by hard work, discipline from a young age” and that she looks up to Chinese tennis star Li Na.
Regarding the two-time Grand Slam winner, Radukanu said, “When I was younger, I used to take a lot of inspiration from Li Na, even now, just as she was such a fierce competitor.”
With her maiden Grand Slam title now underway, fans around the world will be watching with the hope of seeing what the teen sensation can accomplish in the years to come.
Queen Elizabeth II was also among those congratulating Radukanu on Saturday, who in a letter called the 18-year-old’s victory a “remarkable achievement at such a young age” and a “testament to your hard work and dedication”.
“There is no doubt that your outstanding performance and that of your opponent, Leyla Fernandez, will inspire the next generation of tennis leaders,” the letter said.