Brave new world of Raducanu and Fernandez - GulfToday

Brave new world of Raducanu and Fernandez

Emma Raducanu  3

Emma-Raducanu. File

This is not the first time that two teenagers clashed in a Grand Slam final, bringing fame and glamour and the big money that goes with it. It had happened in 1999 when Switzerland’s Martina Hingis clashed with United States’ Serena Williams, when both were yet teenagers. But in this century, it is for the first time that Emma Raducanu, 18, played out Leylah Fernandez, 19. And the game they played was without too much fuss.

They did not bring the angst of youth the way the Williams sisters did at the end of the last century. Raducanu and Fernandez had their share of hardship and deprivation. But they did not bring any of it into either their game or their attitude, the way Naomi Osaka did in recent months.

They gave the appearance of ordinary teenagers, full of zest and laughter, ready to battle it out for the fun of it. It was a crisp final, where the shots came from both sides with speed and alacrity. But there was no aggression and no expression of it in screams, which we have learned to accept as teen tantrums. Theirs was a power game alright but only as much as their age could bear. They played fine shots, outwitting, and outpacing the other. But it was no more than a simple game where their cross-court shots landed true. What came through was the joy of the game. The determination and grit were there. But the gleam in the eyes was that of simple pleasure of playing the game with all the zeal they are capable of.

Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez

In more ways than one, Raducanu and Fernandez are multi-national and multi-cultural. Raducanu’s father was a Romanian and her mother a Chinese, and they first settled in Canada and then moved on to Britain. So, Raducanu played as a British player though she was not English in the sense it is ordinarily understood. Fernandez’s father is an Ecuadorean footballer and mother a Filipino. And they got their opportunity in Canada, and the father readily acknowledged that Canada opened opportunities which were not there either in Ecuador or in the Philippines.

The two teenagers can be described as displaced persons in multiple ways. They did not grow up in the countries where their parents belonged. Fernandez was happy when she discovered that there was a huge following for her in the Philippines and the whole country was rooting for her. She was overjoyed but she was not conflicted because she did not feel that there was any clash between her mother’s country, her father’s and that of their adopted country.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rooted for Fernandez as did the Filipinos. It is a wonderfully cosmopolitan world where national identities are acknowledged but those identities come in the way of their freedom to move and live in other countries and play for other countries.

Cultural conservatives will be tempted to call them rootless folk, who had no place to call their own in the old sense of the term. Those questions do not bother Raducanu and Fernandez. They are happy youngsters who love playing tennis. Yes. It is lot of hard work, and as Fernandez described it a day before the final, “blood and tears” as well. Even as political and social strife rages across the world, Raducanu and Fernandez opened the doors of a brave new world that promises hope and joy along with the big money. It is to be hoped that even as they turn into twenty somethings in a couple of years they will retain their joie de vivre that took them to the finals of the US Open Tennis in 2021.

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