8. Teen queens hold court at Flushing Meadows

If this had been a movie, it would have been criticized as implausible. An 18-year-old Emma Raducanu, ranked No. 150 and competing in her first-ever US Open, plays 19-year-old No. 73 Leylah Fernandez in the finals and triumphs to become the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam title.

Add on their international backgrounds, and it seemed designed for worldwide box office appeal—the Toronto-born Raducanu, of Romanian and Chinese origin, represents Great Britain, while Canada's Fernandez has parents hailing from Ecuador and the Philippines.

But this was no movie. It's what actually unfolded in New York, where the two teen queens become bigger and bigger sensations as they kept winning round upon round. By the time they both reached the final, it had almost taken on the level of a proceeding of state.


Raducanu's victory was perhaps even more improbable. Not only was she the first qualifier, man or woman, to ever win a Grand Slam, she had also played just three tour-level events in her career—and the first of those just two and a half months prior. And while Fernandez had the tougher road, defeating three Top 5 players and three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber in tight three-setters, Raducanu cruised through a field that included two Top 20 players, not dropping a set on her way to the title.


The women's final was picked up by British network television, with 9.2 million tuning into Channel 4 to watch the first British woman to capture a Grand Slam since 1977.

Winning a major is usually a player's big moment in the spotlight, but Raducanu seemed to only get bigger from there—an appearance at the Met Gala, movie premiere and more than $5 million in fashion sponsorships followed in the next few weeks. There was talk that she would soon move in front of Naomi Osaka to become highest-paid female athlete in the world.


It was all the more remarkable given the backstory behind it. Only weeks before, Raducanu had been the center of attention in very different circumstances when she retired from her fourth-round match at Wimbledon, where she was experiencing breathing problems.


Though few knew exactly what had happened, it didn't stop another huge public debate about athletes and pressure, including questions about whether Raducanu had the mental toughness to succeed at the highest levels of the sport.

During the US Open, she answered them.