Emma Raducanu ended Britain’s 44-year wait for a women’s Grand Slam singles champion as she beat Leylah Fernandez to win the US Open in the most thrilling style.
Raducanu, who was born in Canada to a Chinese mother and a Romanian father, spoke about her Chinese background in an interview before the final. “Having a Chinese mom, she definitely instilled from a young age hard work, discipline,” she said.
The 18-year-old ended her scarcely believable run in New York with a 6-4 6-3 win over her 19-year-old Canadian opponent in a high-quality final.
Raducanu threw herself to the floor in disbelief as she fired down an ace to conclude what has been the most remarkable journey.
Raducanu served for the match at 5-3 but cut her leg as she went break point down, leading to a medical time-out and a clearly irritated Fernandez expressing her frustration to the match official.
However, Raducanu shrugged off the delay, saving a further break point before closing out her third championship point.
The two shared a warm hug before Raducanu headed up the stairs at Arthur Ashe Stadium to celebrate with her support box.
Raducanu was cheered on by an emotional Virginia Wade, who was the last British woman to win a major trophy at Wimbledon in 1977.
trophy at Wimbledon in 1977.
“It means so much to have Virginia Wade here and also Tim Henman,” Raducanu said in her on-court speech.
“They are British icons and for me to follow in their footsteps gave me the belief I could do it.”
With the victory, Raducanu becomes:
- The first British female winner at Flushing Meadows since Virginia Wade in 1968
- The first qualifier in the Open era to win a Slam
- The youngest women’s Slam champion since Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon in 2004
- The youngest Briton to win a Grand Slam title
- The first woman to win the US Open without dropping a set since Serena Williams in 2014
She will take home £1.8m in prize money, rise to 23 in the world rankings and will become the British number one on Monday.
Raducanu will also know that she has starred in one of the biggest moments in British sporting history – and captured the imagination of the fans at home and in New York.
The rise & rise of Raducanu
Astonishing. Ridiculous. Meteoric. Unbelievable. Take your pick – but no word can ever really sum up what Raducanu has achieved.
Two weeks ago, Raducanu had a flight booked back to the UK, just in case she did not come through qualifying in New York. Seventeen days later, she has lifted the trophy in front of a rapturous crowd.
Raducanu did not just come through qualifying: she dominated the tournament. The most games she lost in one set in her entire run in New York – five – came in the second round of qualifying.
It is not just that Raducanu has kept on winning, but she has done it with such dominance. She did not drop a set en route to the final, despite meeting Olympic champion Belinda Bencic and in-form Maria Sakkari on the way.
In the big moments, she has held her nerve, trusting in her power and serve, even when she saw two championship points go by in the final.
This is someone who, two months ago, was collecting her A-Level results. She only made her WTA main-draw debut in June. All this has happened so quickly, and yet not once has Raducanu not looked like she belongs.
With all the attention on Raducanu after Wimbledon – as well as questions from some about her mental toughness – she could have easily been overwhelmed.
Instead, she trusted in herself, hired a new coach in Andrew Richardson and went to America to play in the various events.
No-one could have seen this coming; not the ease with which Raducanu would brush her opponents aside, or the calmness with which she would approach every match.
But Raducanu always believed. And she will leave New York as the US Open champion.
‘An almost perfect performance’ – analysis
Former British number one Laura Robson on BBC Radio 5 Live: “There are so many sliding doors moments. Before Wimbledon, Emma didn’t have a main draw wild card. Would she be in this position if they hadn’t upgraded it? Would this happen if she hadn’t had to retire from the fourth round with breathing problems?
“She played an almost perfect performance in her first Grand Slam final. You have to think there will be so many more.”
Former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash: “I cannot believe it. It is unheard of for a qualifier to win the US Open. Goran Ivanisevic won Wimbledon as a wildcard but he had already been to Wimbledon finals, not playing a second Grand Slam.
“She hits so cleanly. I cannot come up with a reason for this to happen. It does not make sense at all. Her performance is mindboggling.”
BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller: “I have never seen anything like this and I suspect if I work in this business for another 20 years I won’t see anything like it.
Nerves? What nerves?
A full Arthur Ashe Stadium – which holds almost 24,000 people – is one of the most intimidating sights in tennis, but neither player looked fazed as they walked out on to the biggest stage of their career.
Fernandez had more of the crowd support, given that she has ousted the second, third and fifth seed in New York, but there was still good support for Raducanu.
The first three games lasted for 23 minutes, both players showing a devastating array of cross-court punches and fiery returns of serve, and they traded breaks as they found their footing.
As she has done throughout the tournament, Raducanu dug herself out from 0-30 down several times, stepping forward, playing more aggressively and finding her first serves.
That gave her the confidence to attack Fernandez’s second serve and put herself on top. She closed out the first set with a forehand down the line, turning and pumping her fist towards her box before letting out a yell of “come on!” to the crowd as they rose to applaud.
Fernandez has shown tenacity throughout the tournament and she did so here, saving three break points in her first service game to stop Raducanu taking a 2-0 lead in the second.
She then found the break, adjusting to hit Raducanu’s serves better, and it looked as though the momentum had swung the way of the young Canadian.
However, there is a reason Raducanu has not dropped a set in New York. At the changeover she sat quietly, eyes closed, before again increasing her tempo and creating the break opportunity.
She broke with the shot of the match – a stunning forehand pass, made from almost off the court, that left Fernandez stranded at the net.
Two championship points came and went on the Fernandez serve, saved once again by brave hitting, but Raducanu did not falter despite taking a nasty cut to the leg as she slid behind the baseline.
It was an odd interlude in what was an entertaining final that proved that the future of women’s tennis is bright.
British teenager Emma Raducanu reached the US Open final as her meteoric rise continued with a stunning straight-set win over Greek 17th seed Maria Sakkari in New York.
Raducanu, recently extended her dream run with a 6-1 6-4 victory in which her dominance again almost defied belief.
She is the first qualifier to reach a Grand Slam final and will play another teenager Leylah Fernandez on Saturday.
Raducanu is the first British woman in a major singles final in 44 years.
Watched on by Virginia Wade – the last woman to achieve that feat at Wimbledon in 1977 – Raducanu produced another fearless and ruthless victory that stunned those watching on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
After confidently swatting away a volley on her first match point, Raducanu immediately dropped her racquet on the court and covered her mouth with both hands.
Quickly she broke out into a beaming smile before lapping up the acclaim of a rapturous crowd on the world’s biggest tennis court.
“The time in New York has gone so quickly, I’ve been taking care of each day and three weeks later I’m in the final. I actually can’t believe it,” Raducanu said.
After coming through three qualifying matches to reach the main draw, she has not dropped a set in any of her nine matches at Flushing Meadows.
It is only Raducanu’s second Grand Slam tournament and the fourth tour-level event of her career.
Additionally, Raducanu is:
- the youngest British Grand Slam finalist in 62 years, since Christine Truman reached the French Open final aged 18 in 1959
- the first British woman to reach a US Open final in 53 years, following Wade in 1968
- only the fourth British woman to reach a Grand Slam final in the Open era
Before her run to the Wimbledon last 16 earlier this summer, Raducanu was ranked 336th in the world.
This win puts her on the verge of the top 30 after already being assured of becoming the British women’s number one by reaching the last four at Flushing Meadows.
Most pertinently, it gives the London teenager – who also passed her A Levels this summer – the opportunity to win one of tennis’ most prestigious titles when she faces Canadian 19-year-old world number 73 Fernandez at 21:00 BST on Saturday.
Given the one-sided nature of the victory against Sakkari – and those before it – Raducanu will not be fazed by the occasion.
Fast start pays dividends for Raducanu
Reaching the last 16 at Wimbledon on her Grand Slam debut catapulted Raducanu into stardom, yet somehow she has managed to surpass what she achieved there with the extraordinary exploits in New York.
Yet again she dismantled a much more experienced opponent with such ease that it breathtakingly belied her age and experience.
Former British number one Greg Rusedski said her performance against Sakkari was “worthy of a world number one”.
French Open semi-finalist Sakkari, like those opponents before her, was left befuddled by Raducanu’s poise and execution. The Greek, who was also aiming to reach her maiden Grand Slam final, was unable to cope with Raducanu’s intensity and could not find a solution to negate it.
Raducanu faced seven break points in her opening two service games, seeing them all off to hold both and move into a 3-0 lead with a break sandwiched in-between.
Sakkari became frustrated with her inability to take her opportunities, chuntering at her box and complaining to the umpire before running off to swap her skirt at the first changeover.
In contrast to Sakkari’s anxious demeanour, Raducanu seemed completely unflustered by the occasion.
That continued as the Briton, backed by a few fans dressed in Union Jack colours and waving flags, won all the decisive points on the way to clinching the opening set in 36 minutes.
Nerveless finish as Henman provides inspiration
Being the frontrunner is a position Raducanu has become accustomed to at Flushing Meadows and once she broke for a 2-1 lead in the second set, there looked to be little way back for Sakkari.
Pressure continued to be applied in each of the Greek’s next two service games – but she managed to hold and maintain hope by remaining a single break down.
With the Greek player’s family looking increasingly tense as they watched on, Sakkari saved five break points in a momentous hold lasting almost 10 minutes for 4-3.
After exchanging holds, Raducanu then had the opportunity to serve for the match.
A wayward forehand put Sakkari 15-0 ahead, before Raducanu found a first serve that could not be returned and led to a loud roar of ‘Come on!’, which signalled the Briton’s relief.
A nerveless forehand down the line was timed to perfection for 30-15 and another penetrating baseline return set up a match point.
With a place in the US Open final beckoning, there were no signs of nerves as she sealed victory with a forehand volley.
Afterwards Raducanu said she had looked to former British number one Tim Henman, standing at the side of the court in his role as a television analyst, for reassuring support before serving on match point.
“Tim is honestly such a big inspiration, he was telling me to treat it one point at a time,” she said.
“In moments like this you definitely can’t get ahead of yourself and you need stay present.
“I’m grateful to Tim for everything he has done for British tennis and for me.”
New York’s teenage kicks signals a changing of the guard
Earlier in Thursday’s night session, Canadian teenager Fernandez sealed her place in the final by shocking Belarusian second seed Aryna Sabalenka.
Unseeded Fernandez, who turned 19 on Monday, won 7-6 (7-3) 4-6 6-4 to edge a tense semi-final.
Raducanu’s victory then set up the eighth Grand Slam final in the Open Era between teenagers.
It is the first since the 1999 US Open when American hope Serena Williams beat Switzerland’s Martina Hingis.
The success of Raducanu and Fernandez caps a tournament where a host of young stars have filled the void of several big names – in particular Williams, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal – with superb performances.
Martina Navratilova, the 18-time Grand Slam singles champion, said Raducanu and Fernandez’s success was a “changing of the guard” moment.
What Raducanu has achieved ‘does not seem real’ – reaction
Naomi Broady, British player on BBC Radio 5 Live: “I am just speechless, I am so so happy for her. It wasn’t Maria Sakkari’s night but it was the sheer pressure put on her by Emma Raducanu right from the start.
“She had those seven break points, Maria Sakkari, and she couldn’t take one. From that moment Raducanu ran away with the match.
“How exciting is this? We’re allowed to be excited about this, we’re not being British and ahead of ourselves – this is amazing!”
“You think about the players who since Virginia Wade in 1977 have been trying to reach a Grand Slam final for Britain in the women’s game – Johanna Konta came very close at the French Open in 2019 and Jo Durie too, a semi-finalist at the US Open among other appearances at that stage of a Grand Slam.
“Yet Emma Raducanu has done it at the second attempt at her Grand Slam and has taken all of our breath away with the way she has played throughout this summer. It doesn’t seem real.