Teen Emma Raducanu wins US Open title for first Grand Slam crown by a qualifier
NEW YORK: British teenager Emma Raducanu completed the greatest underdog title triumph in tennis history on Saturday, becoming the first qualifier to capture a Grand Slam title with a straight-sets defeat of Canada’s Leylah Fernandez in the US Open women’s singles final. Raducanu, 18, is the first British woman in 44 years to win a Slam crown after beating 73rd-ranked 19-year-old left-hander Fernandez 6-4, 6-3 to take the $2.5 million (2.1 million euro) top prize. “I knew I would have to dig deep,” Raducanu said. “It was an incredibly difficult match but I thought the level was really high. I had to play some of my best tennis.” It was a stunning achievement for the unheralded 150th-ranked teen, who didn’t drop a set in three qualifying matches and seven main draw matches over two weeks on the New York hardcourts in producing a stunner for the ages. Not since Virginia Wade in 1977 at Wimbledon had a British woman taken a Slam singles title, with Raducanu the first Briton to claim the US Open crown since Wade in 1968. Queen Elizabeth II was among the first to pay tribute to Raducanu’s remarkable win. “It is a remarkable achievement at such a young age, and is testament to your hard work and dedication,” the British monarch said in a statement. Wade and British men’s tennis legend Tim Henman were among a sellout crowd of 23,700 that created an electric atmosphere at Arthur Ashe Stadium in the first-ever women’s Slam final between unseeded players. “It means so much to have Virginia here and also Tim and to have such British legends and icons, to follow in their footsteps and it gave me the belief I could actually do it.” Fernandez, who turned 19 on Monday, had ousted defending champion Naomi Osaka, second-ranked Aryna Sabalenka, fifth seed Elina Svitolina and three-time Slam winner Angelique Kerber in her epic run to the final. “I’m very proud of myself the way I played the last two weeks,” Fernandez said. “I hope to be back here in the finals and having the right trophy,” added a tearful Fernandez, before paying tribute to New York as the city marked the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. “I know it’s especially hard on this day for New York,” she said. “I just want to say I hope I can be as strong and resilient as New York has been the past 20 years.” Raducanu is the youngest US Open champion since Williams in 1999 and the first US Open women’s champion not to drop a set since Williams in 2014. – AFP