And there she was in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Saturday, holding a trophy to complete an unlikely -- indeed, unprecedented -- and surprisingly dominant journey from qualifier to major champion by beating Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 6-3 in the final.
“The future of women’s tennis, and just the depth of the game right now, is so great,” Raducanu said. “I think every single player here in the women’s draw definitely has a shot of winning any tournament.”
The 18-year-old Raducanu won 10 matches in a row at Flushing Meadows -- three in qualifying, seven in the main draw -- and is the first woman to win the US Open title without dropping a set since Serena Williams in 2014.
This was the first major final between two teens since Williams, 17, beat Martina Hingis, 18, at the 1999 US Open and the first between two unseeded women in the professional era, which began in 1968.
“I hope to be back here in the finals and this time with a trophy -- the right one. With the right trophy,” Fernandez said as tears welled in her eyes during the trophy presentation.
Raducanu broke to go up 4-2 in the second set, held for 5-2 and twice was a point from winning the title in the next game. But under pressure from Fernandez, she let both of those opportunities slip away by putting groundstrokes into the net.
“That’s just the competitor that she is,” Raducanu said about Fernandez, whom she last faced in the Wimbledon juniors event three years ago.
Then at 5-3, while Raducanu was serving for the match, she slid on the court chasing a ball to her backhand side, bloodying her left knee. A trainer came out to put a white bandage on the cut and, during a delay of more than four minutes, Fernandez -- a 19-year-old left-hander from Canada ranked 73rd -- spoke to chair umpire Marijana Veljovic.
When they resumed, Raducanu saved a pair of break points, then converted on her third chance to close it with a 108 mph ace.
Result: Final: E Raducanu bt L Fernandez 6-4, 6-3