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Emma Raducanu won the US Open women’s title on Saturday, stunning the tennis world by becoming the first player to win the Grand Slam trophy after entering the tournament through the qualifying rounds.
The 18-year-old from Kent is the first British woman to win a major tournament since Virginia Wade’s win at Wimbledon in 1977. Raducanu maintained the relentless efficiency she showed for two weeks in New York, beating fellow teen Leylah Fernandez of Canada 6 -4, 6-3.
The historic victory will cement Raducanu as a household name in Britain if not around the world. From the qualifying rounds to the final on Saturday, she did not drop a set against 10 opponents in two and a half weeks.
Saturday’s most unlikely final between two unranked teenagers – the first such final in Grand Slam history – presented its own challenge to Raducanu, meeting a colleague in Fernandez known for her composure against former champions.
“I knew I had to dig deep,” said Raducanu of fighting back from a break point in the decisive second set. Applauded in Queens by Wade and fellow British tennis legend Tim Henman, “it gave me the confidence that I could really do it”.
Congratulations to Raducanu immediately started pouring in on social media, including from the Queen. In an autographed post on her official Instagram, she wrote that Raducanu’s victory 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 its small 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 when she was two years old and is a product of the Lawn Tennis Association’s talent development program. Ahead of this weekend, Raducanu said her biggest achievement in tennis was a $25,000 prize at a 2019 tournament in Pune, India.
Her performance in Queens is only Raducanu’s second appearance in a major tournament, following her breakthrough at Wimbledon in July. There she became the youngest British woman to advance to the round of 16, before having to retire with acute breathing difficulties.
Since then, Raducanu has built winning momentum this summer at a series of tournaments across North America, building confidence by progressing to the quarterfinals and finals on the US tour, taking in the sights from San Francisco to Chicago.
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“I think I was building up with every game,” Raducanu said after her semi-final victory on Thursday.
Saturday’s championship, played on a brilliantly clear afternoon in front of a packed stadium crowd, was an exciting showcase of the next generation of women’s tennis. Fernandez, who turned 19 on Monday, put on an impressive run to advance to the final, beating defending champion Naomi Osaka and former world number one Angelique Kerber.
She fought back tears after the defeat, told the crowd she hoped to be back next year and paid tribute to the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. “I hope I can be as strong and resilient as New York has been for the past twenty years. years,” Fernandez said.
The two women have known each other since childhood but had only met on the field once before, when Raducanu defeated Fernandez in straight sets in the opening rounds of Wimbledon Juniors in 2018.
Raducanu said she hoped their championship meeting on Saturday would be the first in a long rivalry.
“I think it’s a sign that the future and depth of women’s tennis is really great right now,” she said. About Fernandez, she added: “I hope we can play many more tournaments and hopefully finals against each other.”