banner-optimized_0_0.png
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Regional Interests

How Emma Raducanu, 18-Year-Old US Open Winner, Made Tennis History

Emma Raducanu of Great Britain celebrates with the championship trophy after defeating Leylah Annie Fernandez of Canada during their women's singles final match on Day 13 of the 2021 US Open on Saturday.
Emma Raducanu of Great Britain celebrates with the championship trophy after defeating Leylah Annie Fernandez of Canada during their women's singles final match on Day 13 of the 2021 US Open on Saturday.

Emma Raducanu's career is on the upswing.

At only 18 years old, she accomplished a feat on Saturday that very few could have predicted, winning the U.S. Open title. Representing the United Kingdom, Raducanu bested 19-year-old Canadian Leylah Fernandez for the win with a final score of 6-4, 6-3, in a final that was already an anomaly as the first time it's been exclusively teens squaring off in the final in more than 20 years.

Raducanu's performance at the U.S. Open had already made history even before her win: she competed as a qualifier, and was the first qualifier in either men's or women's tennis to even make it the finals of a Grand Slam tournament, according to CNN.

Although Raducanu has dual citizenship in Canada and the U.K., her monumental win is a big deal for Britain in particular; she's the first female British player to win a Grand Slam event in 44 years. The last was Virginia Wade, who won Wimbledon in 1977.

Raducanu's victory led to praise from the queen, who congratulated the teen in a public letter calling her win a "remarkable achievement" and praising her "hard work and dedication."

A career that's been decades in the making

Raducanu was born in Toronto, Canada but moved to London when she was 2 years old, according to her WTA Tour bio. She's been playing tennis since she was 5. Her father is Romanian and her mother is Chinese; they both work in finance, and she credits them for teaching her to be disciplined, according to the South China Morning Post.

"I think it's definitely helped me, the mentality that both of them bring," Raducanu said in July. "They both come from very hard-working countries."

During the 2018 Wimbledon junior competition, she made it to the girls' quarterfinals, according to WTA Tennis.

She began her professional career in 2018 and had only just competed in her first Grand Slam event in June with Wimbledon. She ultimately had to pull out during the fourth round due to breathing problems, but even so, by reaching the third round, she became the youngest British woman to make it that far since 2002, according to BBC Sports. Before that, she'd taken more than a year off due to the pandemic and to finish high school, according to another WTA Tennis post.

A hefty list of accomplishments under her belt

Raducanu's rise to fame has been nothing short of amazing: she entered the U.S. Open ranked 150th in the world but left it in the 23rd spot. She broke a trail of records in the process: she's the youngest player to win a Grand Slam singles tournament since 2004, unseating Maria Sharapova, who won Wimbledon in 2004 at only 17 years old. She's also the first female player to take home a title in her second appearance at a Grand Slam, WTA Tennis reports.

With her U.S. Open win (during which, she managed to win every single set), she's earned her place as a rising star of the tennis world, in addition to becoming $2.5 million richer. And she's also achieved a life-long dream, she said, according to Reuters.

"It's an absolute dream," she said. "I've always dreamed of winning a Grand Slam. You just say these things. You say, 'I want to win a Grand Slam.' But to have the belief I did, and actually executing, winning a Grand Slam, I can't believe it."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.