Emma Raducanu just became the youngest woman to face a grand slam final since Maria Sharapova in 2004.
Emma Raducanu has become the first British female to make it to the final of the US Open in 44 years. At just 18 years old, that’s no mean feat. It also puts her in the history books as the youngest British tennis player to reach the US Open finals.
The huge achievement comes after Raducanu – ranked 150th in the world at the beginning of the tournament – beat Greek player and world number 17 Maria Sakkari in a dominating performance on 10 September. But her shock at being there is obvious: after winning her first match point, Raducanu dropped her racquet and put her hands over her mouth before breaking into a smile.
She really didn’t expect to get this far – proved by the fact that she’d booked a flight home for after the qualifiers, expecting to get knocked out before the final stages. “I didn’t expect to be here at all,” she told the BBC, saying that rescheduling her flight is “a nice problem to have.”
Her meteoric rise started at Wimbledon this summer, having entered as a wildcard ranked 338th in the world and finishing in the last 16, only withdrawing due to breathing difficulties. The US Open is Raducanu’s second-ever grand slam, having not competed in one before this year. She’s now overtaken Joanna Kantu and Heather Watson in the British rankings, and after her semi-final win Raducanu is now ranked 31st in the world.
Somehow, she isn’t feeling the pressure. “Is there any expectation? I’m a qualifier so technically, on paper, there’s nothing. No pressure on me,” the Guardian reported her saying after her semi-final victory.
“Honestly, the time here in New York has gone so fast. I’ve just been taking care of each day and, before you know it, I’m in the final and I can’t believe it.”
Raducanu is also taking the time to forge relationships with the heroes who came before her. Radacunu referred to Virginia Wade, who was the last British woman to win the US Open in 1977, as an “absolute legend” after Wade watched her quarter- and semi-final wins. Wade then said that the teenager will be “in that handful who will be dominating tennis.”
Raducanu will be taking on fellow teenager, 19-year-old Leylah Annie Fernandez from Canada. Fernandez arrived at the tournament ranked 73rd, and beat some of the world’s best players including Naomi Osaka and Aryna Sabalenka. With her semi-final victory, Fernandez became the youngest woman to reach a grand slam final since Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon in 2004. Two hours later, Raducanu beat the record again. Regardless of who wins, watching the two fearless and joyful women go head-to-head is going to be quite the match.
Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).