British teenager Emma Raducanu arrived in New York last month with a ranking of 150th, just one Grand Slam appearance to her name and a flight booked to head out of town after the U.S. Open’s preliminary rounds in case she failed to win her way into the main tournament.
And there she was in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Saturday, cradling the silver trophy to complete an unlikely — indeed, unprecedented — and surprisingly dominant journey from qualifier to major champion by beating Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 6-3 in the final.
“You say, ‘I want to win a Grand Slam.’ But to have the belief I did, and actually executing, winning a Grand Slam,” Raducanu said, “I can’t believe it.” Who could? It’s all so improbable.
Until three months ago, she had never played in a professional tour-level event, in part because she took 18 months for a combination of reasons: the pandemic and her parents’ insistence that she complete her high school degree.
“My dad is definitely very tough to please,” the 18-year-old Raducanu said with a smile Saturday evening. “But I managed to today.”
She is the first female qualifier to reach a Grand Slam final, let alone win one. She captured ten matches in a row at Flushing Meadows — three in qualifying, seven in the main draw — and is the first woman to win the U.S. Open title without dropping a set since Serena Williams in 2014.
Raducanu, who was born in Toronto and moved to England with her family at age 2, also is the first British woman to win a Grand Slam singles trophy since Virginia Wade at Wimbledon in 1977.
Queen Elizabeth II sent a congratulatory note, hailing the victory as a “remarkable achievement at such a young age.”
There were more firsts, too, emblematic of what a rapid rise this was. For example: Raducanu is the youngest female Grand Slam champion since Maria Sharapova was 17 at Wimbledon in 2004.—Agencies