As Emma Raducanu served an ace past Leylah Fernandez, her third of the match, the 18-year-old from Great Britain dropped her racket and put her hands over face in disbelief. She was now a U.S. Open champion.
Raducanu falls to the Arthur Ashe Stadium court after she completed her historic U.S. Open title run. (Photo Credit: Andrew Ong/USTA)
The point was the final one of a remarkable two-plus week stay in New York for Raducanu, whose Queens’ journey began in the opening round of qualifying and ended with her standing on a podium and holding the winning trophy following a 6-4, 6-3 victory on Saturday afternoon in a battle of two teenagers.
“I've always dreamed of winning a Grand Slam. [But] you just say these things. You say, I want to win a Grand Slam,” said Raducanu. “But to have the belief I did, and actually executing, winning a Grand Slam, I can't believe it.”
Raducanu’s victory is even more impressive when you put it into context. She is the first qualifier in the Open Era to win a major title, the first woman to win a major title in her second Slam event, and the youngest major singles champion since a 17-year-old Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon in 2004.
“I think the biggest triumph for me is how I managed to just not think of absolutely anything else except for my game plan, what I'm going to execute. I didn't really think anything other than what was going on on the tennis court. All the outside stuff, I just completely zoned in and focused on my craft,” she said. “When I was on the tennis court, it was just business as usual, focusing on the plays. That's the biggest thing that I'm proud of. I think that's definitely the biggest thing that's probably helped me to win this title.”
That focus allowed Raducanu to power through the draw without ever dropping a set, becoming the first player to do so since Serena Williams in 2014. Now, Raducanu is now an overnight superstar, and could be one of the faces of tennis moving forward.
Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez embrace at the net after the first all-teenage U.S. Open final since 1999. (Photo Credit: Darren Carroll/USTA)
“I haven't thought of any of that, to be honest. After the match, I just showered, same routines as always. I'm not even thinking about, like, when I'm going home. I have no idea when I'm going home. I have no idea what I'm doing tomorrow. I'm just really trying to embrace the moment, really take it all in,” she said. “I definitely think it's the time to just switch off from any future thoughts or any plans, any schedule. I've got absolutely no clue. Right now, no care in the world, I'm just loving life.”