Emma Raducanu became a superstar virtually overnight when she made it through the qualifying rounds to triumph at the US Open. The young Briton raised the winners’ trophy at Flushing Meadows at the tender age of just 18 years and 302 days – yet that doesn’t quite gain her a place on the list of the youngest ever tennis grand slam singles winners. In fact Emma is the eleventh youngest winner in the Open era, so let’s take a trip down memory lane and discover the famous names to have captured a major singles title at an even younger age.
1. Martina Hingis (16 years and 117 days)
Martina Hingis holds the record as the youngest grand slam singles winner of all time, defeating defending champion Mary Pierce to win the Australian Open in 1997, aged just 16 years and 3 months. The year before she had become the youngest ever Grand Slam winner when she won the Wimbledon doubles title (with partner Helena Suková) at the tender age of 15 years and 3 months. Despite struggling with injuries for many years, Hingis would finish her professional career with a total of 25 Grand Slams, made up of 5 singles, 13 doubles and 7 mixed doubles titles. She was also the youngest ever holder of the title of world number one.
2. Monica Seles (16 years and 189 days)
Monica Seles became the youngest ever winner of the French Open when she triumphed over Steffi Graf in straight sets in 1990 at the age of 16 years and 6 months. Seles would go on to claim 8 Grand Slam singles crowns before her twentieth birthday, but in 1993 she suffered an on-court attack at the hands of a knife-wielding ‘fan’ which would cause her to lose 2 years of her career. Seles did manage to claim one more Grand Slam title after her return to the sport, winning the Australian Open in 1996, and she also claimed a bronze medal in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
3. Tracy Austin (16 tears and 270 days)
Tracy Austin is the youngest US Open champion of all time, winning that tournament in 1979 at the age of 16 years and 9 months by beating favourite Chris Evert in the final. Austin would go on to win the US Open singles title again in 1981 as well as the 1980 Wimbledon mixed doubles tournament. Tracy also became the youngest inductee to the International Tennis Hall of Fame when she was honoured at the age of 29.
4. Maria Sharapova (17 years and 75 days)
Maria Sharapova defeated defending champ Serena Williams in the 2004 Wimbledon singles final to become the youngest singles winner of that tournament in the Open era. (The ‘Little Wonder’ Lottie Dodd won the Wimbledon singles title at age 15 in 1887, but of course this was well before the Open era of tennis, when professionals were permitted to compete). Sharapova would go on to enjoy a lengthy and successful career, winning the French Open twice as well as the US Open, Australian Open and that early Wimbledon triumph.
5. Michael Chang (17 years and 110 days)
The youngest male Grand Slam winner of all time is American Michael Chang, who won the French Open in 1989 when he defeated Stefan Edberg in five sets. Chang utilised a dogged playing style throughout his career, relying on superior speed and fitness to wear down his opponents. The New Jersey native would go on to win a total of 34 ranking tournaments and reached a career high of number 2 in the world in 1996, the same year in which he finished as runner-up in both the US Open and Australian Open.
6. Arantxa Sánchez Vicario (17 years and 174 days)
Barcelona native Arantxa Sánchez Vicario became Spain’s youngest Grand Slam winner when she claimed the 1989 French Open title by defeating Steffi Graf. Over the course of her career Sánchez Vicario would go on to appear in 12 Grand Slam singles finals, winning four and finishing runner-up in eight. Aranxta also won 6 Grand Slam doubles titles as well as 4 mixed doubles crowns for a career total of 14, as well as bronze and silver Olympic medals.
7. Boris Becker (17 years and 228 days)
Boris Becker became the first German player to win a Wimbledon singles title when he defeated Kevin Curran in four sets in 1985, aged 17 and 8 months. At the time he was also the youngest male winner of a Grand Slam, although Michael Change would later take that honour. Becker would win at Wimbledon again in 1986 and ’89, and would also add two Australian Opens and a US Open title over the course of his hugely successful career.
8. Mats Wilander (17 years and 293 days)
Sweden’s Mats Wilander shocked the world of tennis when he won the 1982 French Open as an unseeded 17-year old. By the end of his professional career Wilander had won 7 Grand Slams, three apiece at the French and Australian Opens as well as a single US Open victory. Wimbledon triumph eluded the Swede in the singles, but he did pick up the doubles title in SW17 in tandem with fellow-countryman Joakim Nyström.
9. Serena Williams (17 years and 350 days)
Arguably the greatest female tennis player of all time – or just greatest tennis player full stop – Serena Williams won the first of her incredible 23 grand slam singles titles in 1999 when she captured the US Open by defeating Martina Hingis in straight sets. We simply don’t have enough space here to do justice to Williams’ stellar career; suffice to say that among her achievements are 39 grand slam titles (23 singles, 14 doubles, 2 mixed doubles) an Olympic gold medal and countless tour wins.
10. Steffi Graf (17 years and 357 days)
Steffi Graf is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest female tennis players of all time, and she was successful from an early age, winning her first Grand Slam – the French Open – as a teenager in 1987. She would also go on to claime the record for the longest period as world number one – 377 weeks – and won an incredible 22 singles Grand Slam titles over the course of her career. Only Serena Williams and Margaret Court have won more Grand Slams in the Open era, which began in 1968. Graf retired at the relatively young age of 30, when she was still ranked number three in the world. Steffi was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004.