Winning a grand slam title is supposed to be hard – just ask Andy Murray – but his 18-year-old compatriot Emma Raducanu did not so much clear all the usual hurdles as sidestep them altogether, going home with the trophy in just her second major tournament.
Last night was an unprecedented feat, as was the fact she won 10 matches at the tournament after coming through qualifying, all of them in straight sets, pulling off one of the great sporting feats with victory at the US Open.
Raducanu’s 6-4 6-3 victory over fellow teenager Leylah Fernandez in the final made her the first British woman since Virginia Wade, who was watching from the stands, 44 years ago to win a slam singles title, and the first in New York since Wade in 1968.
Raducanu is yet to win a match on the WTA Tour and little over three months ago she was a full-time schoolgirl completing her A-levels, with competitive tennis having taken a back seat for more than a year.
But the teenager’s extraordinary talent was evident from an early age and she showed in her run to the fourth round of Wimbledon this summer that a big future lay ahead.
Former British number one Jo Durie described Raducanu as a “smiling assassin” and predicted she could go on to dominate the women’s game.
Durie is the former world number five and had been the last British woman to reach the US Open singles semi-finals in 1983.
She told BBC Radio 5 Live this morning: “It looks to me like she’s a smiling assassin, she’s ruthless in the way she goes about her tennis.
“Nobody has really stood apart from anyone else, but Emma Raducanu could be the next one who grabs hold of the opportunity and we’ve seen her consistency of spirit – feet on the ground, taking it all in her stride. All these factors might mean that we see her for many years.”
Four-time US Open winner Billie Jean King was present to watch Raducanu beat Fernandez in New York.
She said on Twitter: “What a terrific display of competition and maturity from two exceptional players. It is wonderful to see this generation living our dream.
“I can’t remember a #USOpen with better crowd support. Thank you, NY, the greatest fans in the world. And congratulations, Emma!”
London home club tearfully celebrate triumph
Emma Raducanu’s supporters cried tears of joy as they saw her win the US Open final at a viewing party hosted by her home club.
Raducanu played at Parklangley Club in Beckenham, south east London, from the age of six, and the viewing party was crammed with her friends and admirers.
The final minutes of the game were incredibly tense as her supporters at the club watched, but shouts of “Emma, Emma, Emma” and tears of joy erupted throughout the room as the 18-year-old fell to the ground in New York after sealing the win.
Suzanne Williams, Raducanu’s former strength and conditioning trainer, and Harry Bushnell, her former coach, were both extremely emotional minutes after she won.
Williams said: “That was an incredible match and she had to work so hard and I am so impressed.”
Bushnell added: “I said earlier on if she was going to win, she would win with straight sets, I mean it is just a joke of an achievement for her, I think it was important that she got it done in that second set.”
“Fair play to her opponent she was equally as unbelievable.”
There was an audible gasp from the crowd when Raducanu fell and scraped her knee, with her former coach Williams saying she “winced” when it happened and called her a “hero” for continuing the game.
Bushnell said: “That reminded me of when she fell over on Claker Way when I was teaching her how to slide once and her dad just told her to get up and get on with it.”
He coached Raducanu from the age of six to 10 and said: “I think it’s a testament to her because she’s such a pleasant person, on and off the court, and I think that’s why so many people are getting behind her and certainly here at the club. Parklangley club will always be behind her every step of the way.”
Queen and PM lead tributes
The Queen and Prime Minister have led tributes to “extraordinarily fabulous” teenage tennis champion Emma Raducanu.
Following her win, the Queen congratulated the teenager, saying: “It is a remarkable achievement at such a young age, and is testament to your hard work and dedication.”
She added: “I have no doubt your outstanding performance, and that of your opponent Leylah Fernandez, will inspire the next generation of tennis players. I send my warmest good wishes to you and your many supporters.”
A tweet from the official account of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge was signed C to signify Catherine, who is a huge tennis fan.
It said: “Huge congratulations @EmmaRaducanu on your stunning performances and historic Grand Slam victory! Incredible – we are all so proud of you.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: “What a winner. A true British hero. Congratulations @EmmaRaducanu on an inspirational win. From qualifier to champion without dropping a set. A phenomenal achievement.”
First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon added her congratulations.
“Just incredible! @EmmaRaducanu is a star, a role model and a champion. Congratulations!” she tweeted.
Leader of the Liberal Democrats Sir Ed Davey said: “What an absolutely amazing match – and what an amazing British athlete we have in Emma Raducanu.”
Celebrity fans also added their voices to the long list of congratulations and praised both teenagers for their performances.
Pop group The Spice Girls, who first went on hiatus two years before Raducanu was born, tweeted “Wow! Amazing tennis from @leylahfernandez and @EmmaRaducanu that’s Girl Power right there!!
TV presenter Gary Lineker said: “First time in my life I’ve ever tweeted whilst on air but my goodness what a performance, what a triumph, what an amazing young woman,” he said.
“Congratulations @EmmaRaducanu on a truly staggering achievement. US Open winner at 18 without losing a set.
Comedian Dara O Briain said: “Well that is both brilliant and ludicrously unbelievable. Well done Emma Raducanu.”
8 Out Of 10 Cats host Jimmy Carr described the teenager as a “legend” and admitted he had become emotional through the match.
Tennis great Martina Navratilova paid tribute to Raducanu and offered her commiserations to Fernandez on the loss.
“A star is born- Emma Raducanu makes history – never has a qualifier won a major- men or women- and she is just getting started,” Navratilova tweeted.
“And will never have to qualify again:) Leylah Fernandez will be back -both are champions but Emma has the trophy- well done!!!”