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Emma Raducanu won the women’s US Open title on Saturday, stunning the tennis world by becoming the first player to win the Grand Slam trophy after entering the tournament through its qualification rounds.
The 18 year old from Kent is the first British woman to win a major tournament since Virginia Wade’s victory at Wimbledon in 1977. Raducanu maintained the ruthless efficiency she has displayed for two weeks in New York, defeating fellow teenager Leylah Fernandez of Canada 6-4, 6-3.
The historic win will solidify Raducanu as a household name in Britain, if not around the world. From the qualifying rounds through Saturday’s final, she did not drop a set against ten opponents over two and a half weeks.
Saturday’s most unlikely of finals between two unranked teenagers — the first such final in Grand Slam history — presented its own challenge for Raducanu, meeting a peer in Fernandez known for her composure against former champions.
“I knew I’d have to dig deep”, Raducanu said of battling back a break point in the decisive second set. Cheered on in Queens by Wade and fellow British tennis legend Tim Henman, “it gave me the belief that I could really do it”.
Congratulations for Raducanu immediately began pouring in on social media, including from the Queen. In a signed post on her official Instagram, she wrote Raducanu’s win “is a remarkable achievement at such a young age”.
Sports marketing experts predict Raducanu could become the new face of British tennis, with sponsorship interest likely to expand beyond her slim portfolio of current backers, Wilson and Nike.
Born in Toronto to a Chinese mother and Romanian father, she moved with her family to the UK aged 2 and is a product of the Lawn Tennis Association’s talent development scheme. Prior to this weekend, Raducanu said her greatest achievement in tennis was a $25,000 prize at a 2019 tournament in Pune, India.
Her performance in Queens is just Raducanu’s second appearance in a major tournament, following her breakout run at Wimbledon in July. There, she became the youngest British woman to advance to the round of 16, before being forced to retire with acute breathing difficulties.
Since then, Raducanu has pieced together a winning momentum over a series of tournaments in North America this summer, building confidence by advancing to quarter finals and finals on the US tour and taking in the sights from San Francisco to Chicago.
“I think I was building with each match”, Raducanu said after her semi-final victory on Thursday.
Saturday’s championship, played on a brilliantly clear afternoon before a packed stadium crowd, was a thrilling showcase of the next generation of women’s tennis. Fernandez, who turned 19 on Monday, pulled off an impressive streak to advance to the final, defeating the defending champion Naomi Osaka and former world number one Angelique Kerber.
She fought back tears after defeat, telling the crowd she hoped to be back next year and paid homage to the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11.
“I hope I can be as strong and resilient as New York has been the last twenty years”, Fernandez said.
The two women have known each other since their youth playing days, but had faced each other only once before on court, when Raducanu defeated Fernandez in straight sets in the early rounds of Wimbledon Juniors in 2018.
Raducanu said she hoped their championship meeting Saturday would be the first in a long rivalry.
“I think it is a sign that the future and depth of women’s tennis right now is really great”, she said. Of Fernandez, she added: “I hope we play each other in many more tournaments and hopefully finals”.