NEW YORK: British teenager Emma Raducanu completed the greatest underdog title run in tennis history on Saturday, becoming the first qualifier to capture a Grand Slam crown by defeating Canada's Leylah Fernandez in the US Open women's final. The 18-year-old was the first British woman in 44 years to win a Slam crown after beating 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 in producing a stunner for the ages.
Raducanu is the youngest Slam champion since Maria Sharapova at 17 in 2004 at Wimbledon.
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 incredible triumph.
"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." Raducanu has had the fewest Slam starts of any women's Slam winner, reaching the fourth round in July at Wimbledon in her only prior Slam appearance. Fernandez, ranked 73rd, had ousted defending champion Naomi Osaka, second-ranked Aryna Sabalenka and fifth seed Elina Svitolina in her epic run to the final.