Tennis: All-teenage women's major finals in the Open Era

As Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez booked their US Open finals berths on Thursday, we look at the instances when teenagers have contested for a major

By Olympic Channel Writer
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Emma Raducanu, 18, will take on 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez in the final of the US Open at the Flushing Meadows on Saturday. It will be for the seventh time in women's tennis history (Open Era - post 1968) that two teenagers will be vying for the Grand Slam title.

Canada's Fernandez shocked second seed Aryna Sabalenka 7-6 (7-3) 4-6 6-4 to book a place in the finals. She had already beaten defending champion Naomi Osaka and fifth seed Elina Svitolina to script a dream run in New York.

Meanwhile, Raducanu defeated 17th seed Maria Sakkari 6-1, 6-4 in Thursday's semifinal. With this, she became the first qualifier to reach a Grand Slam final and also the first British woman to reach a major singles final in 44 years, since Virginia Wade in the 1977 Wimbledon Final.

Let us look at the six previous instances where two teenagers met in a women's Grand Slam Final.

1988 French Open

Steffi Graf v Natasha Zvereva

Steffi Graf took just 32 minutes to defeat Natasha Zvereva 6-0, 6-0 on the claycourts of French Open.

The Belarusian, aged just 17 at the time, had been in the form of her life going into the final. She had beaten second seed Martina Navratilova in the fourth round and also ousted sixth seed Helena Sukova in the quarters.

But the 18-year-old Graf proved to be too strong for her. This was the first double bagel in the open era and the second instance since the 1911 Wimbledon final when Dorothy Lambert Chambers beat Dora Boothby.

1988 US Open

Steffi Graf vs Gabriela Sabatini

Steffi Graf did not have it easy this time as 18-year-old Gabriela Sabatini made her work for the title. After an intense battle of three sets, the scoreline read 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. This victory was special as Graf joined the exclusive club of Don Budge, Maureen Connolly, Rod Laver and Margaret Court to have won the Calendar Slam, after clinching the Australian Open, the French Open, and Wimbledon all in the same year.

In fact, Graf also won the gold medal at the Seoul Olympics in 1988 to become the first, and so far only, tennis player to win the 'Golden Grand Slam'.

1989 French Open

Steffi Graf vs Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario

The Graf juggernaut was halted by 17-year-old Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in the 1989 French Open final

A heavy underdog going into the final, the Spanish teen won by a scoreline of 7-6 (8-6), 3-6, 7-5 in one of the most memorable championship clashes.

The loss stopped Graf from winning her sixth consecutive Grand Slam title. But she had her chances: she served for the match at 5-3 in the third set. However, nerves set in and not only did she lose the game at love, she only won three more points after that.

1997 French Open

Martina Hingis v Iva Majoli

It was a shock result as World no. 1 Martina Hingis fell to 19-year-old Iva Majoli in the 1997 French Open final in straight sets (6-4, 6-2).

Hingis, 16 at the time, was in fine form as she had defeated third seed Monica Seles in the semifinals and was primed to lift the trophy. But Majoli had other ideas as she played some superb tennis to break Hingis' 35-match winning streak. The loss also prevented the Swiss to complete her calendar Grand Slam as he had won every other major in 1997.

1997 US Open

Martina Hingis vs Venus Williams

Martina Hingis defeated an unseeded Venus Williams 6-0, 6-4 in the finals to win the US Open. She was in imperial form throughout the competition as she won the title without dropping a set. On the other hand, the 17-year-old Venus was the first unseeded player in the Open Era to reach the US Open final.

1999 US Open

Serena Williams vs Martina Hingis

The New York crowd was clamouring for an all-Williams final but Martina Hingis thwarter those plans as she beat Venus 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 in the semifinals.

However, Serena Williams, 17, did her part by taking out the defending champion and second-seeded Lindsay Davenport in the first semifinal, winning, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4, to reach her first Grand Slam final. And in the title-decider, she exacted sweet revenge for her elder sister by beating Hingis 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) to capture the US Open title in only her second year as a pro.


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