NEW YORK—Unseeded British teenager Emma Raducanu went from qualifier to champion at the U.S. Open in just her second appearance at a Grand Slam tournament.
Raducanu beat Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez 6–4, 6–3 in the final at Flushing Meadows on Saturday to become the first player to go preliminary qualifying rounds all the way to a major title in the professional era.
The 18-year-old Raducanu, who is ranked 150th, wound up winning all 20 sets she played in New York—six in qualifying, 14 in the main draw—and is the first woman to win the singles championship without dropping a set since Serena Williams in 2014.
This was the first major final between two teens since Williams, 17, beat Martina Hingis, 18, at the 1999 U.S. Open and the first between two unseeded women.
Raducanu broke to go up 4–2 in the second set, held for 5–2 and twice was a point from winning the title in the next game. But she let both of those opportunities slip away by putting groundstrokes into the net.
Then at 5–3, while Raducanu was serving for the match, she slid on the court chasing a ball to her backhand side, bloodying her left knee. A trainer came out to put a white bandage on the cut and, during a delay of more than four minutes, Fernandez—a 19-year-old left-hander from Canada ranked 73rd—spoke to chair umpire Marijana Veljovic.
When they resumed, Raducanu saved a pair of break points, then converted on her third chance to close it, ending a 108 mph ace. She dropped her racket, landed on her back, and covered her face with both hands.
Raducanu is the first British woman to win a Grand Slam trophy since Virginia Wade at Wimbledon in 1977.
She is also the youngest player to claim a women’s major title since Maria Sharapova was 17 at Wimbledon in 2004.
By Howard Fendrich