Emma Raducanu has made history by becoming Britain’s first female grand slam winner since Virginia Wade won Wimbledon in 1977.
The 18-year-old from Bromley beat Canada’s Leylah Fernandez, 19, in two straight sets in New York in the US Open final.
It comes after she saw off Maia Sakkari of Greece in the semi-final.
Emma Raducanu didn’t need the experience of playing for years on the pro circuit or testing her game against the top women in the world. She didn’t even need a direct entry into the U.S. Open.
As it turned out, all the 18-year old phenomenon from Great Britain needed to win a Grand Slam title was her preternatural poise, her massive forehand and a stage like Arthur Ashe Stadium to showcase a level of ability nobody in the world could have known she had.
In the most surprising Grand Slam result in the history of the sport, Raducanu won the U.S. Open title on Saturday, defeating Leylah Fernandez of Canada 6-4, 6-3, to conclude just the fifth tournament she’s ever entered at the highest level of women’s tennis.
Ranked in the 300s just two months ago and No. 150 entering the U.S. Open, Raducanu didn’t just beat everyone she faced in New York, she absolutely bulldozed the opposition, winning 20 straight sets, including the three matches she played in the qualifying tournament just to get into the main draw. She is the first qualifier, male or female, to win a Grand Slam tournament and will move up to No. 23 on Monday.
“From pretty early on I’ve always dreamed of winning a Grand Slam, and you say, ‘I want to win a Grand Slam,'” she said. “But to have the belief I did in actually executing it, I can’t believe it.”
Raducanu and Fernandez had played once before in the junior tournament at Wimbledon in 2018, but whereas most of Raducanu’s peers had gone on to start their pro careers, she stayed in London to finish high school when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. After not playing competitively for most of 2020, she got into Wimbledon this year as a wildcard entry, a few of which the tournament reserves for up-and-coming British players.
Raducanu took full advantage of the opportunity, reaching the fourth round and becoming something of a national sensation in a country that had not produced a women’s champion since Virginia Wade, who won three Grand Slam titles including the 1968 U.S. Open and was in attendance Saturday.
But the excitement over Raducanu in Great Britain was mostly about her long-term future. Nobody, including herself, could have envisioned that by the end of summer she’d become the eighth woman age 18 or younger to win a major title and the first since Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon in 2004.
As she advanced through the draw, though, it did not seem to matter to Raducanu that the opponents were getting tougher and the stakes growing higher. At every turn, all she did was hit the ball harder and cleaner, putting pressure on a series of veteran opponents like Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic and semifinalist Maria Sakkari, who seemed bewildered at the consistent power and accuracy of her shots.