Top 5 lowest ranked WTA Slam finalists
The WTA has seen a number of storybook runs to Slam finals over the course of the Open Era. Join us for a look at the history makers.
5. Serena Williams – Australian Open 2007 – World No. 81
Coming into the 2007 season, Serena was at world number 95, her lowest year-end ranking since 1997.
Injury and a bout of depression had kept the then seven-time Slam champion off the court for six months in 2006. She slipped down the rankings to 139, before returning and requiring a wildcard to enter the US Open.
She entered the Australian Open ranked number 81 in the world, going on to defeat five seeded players en route to the final against world number one Maria Sharapova.
Serena handed out her joint most dominant win of the tournament to the Russian, securing an eighth Slam title 6-1, 6-2.
4. Sloane Stephens – US Open 2017 – World Number 83
After requiring foot surgery in January of 2017, the American was sidelined from the sport for six months.
On her return in July, Stephens had slipped to world number 336 in the WTA rankings, falling further to world number 934 just prior to the Rogers Cup.
There, Stephens reached the semi-finals, rocketing her ranking back up to number 151. Another semi-final result at the Cincinnati Open saw the 24-year-old break back into the top-100 at 83 just before the US Open.
In the first four rounds, the American dispatched two seeds in Dominika Cibulkova and Julia Gorges, before facing 16th seed Anastasija Sevastova.
She came through in a third seed tiebreak, going on to defeat fellow American and ninth seed Venus Williams for a spot in the final.
Another all-American affair, Stephens pulled off the shock victory by defeating Madison Keys 6-3, 6-0 for her first and to date only Slam title.
3. Christine O-Neil – Australian Open 1978 – around World No. 110
The 1978 Australian Open saw a depleted field competing at Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club, due largely to the pitiful prize money compared to lucrative US tournaments being held simultaneously.
Ranked outside the Australian top-20, 22-year-old O’Neil held a computer ranking of around 110 in the world. This was prior to an official WTA ranking system.
O’Neil did not drop a set throughout the tournament, including against third and eighth seeds Elizabeth Norton and Betsy Nagelsen in the second round and final respectively.
She became the first unseeded Slam champion in the Open Era, man or woman, as well as the last Australian woman to date to win the Australian Slam.
2. Emma Raducanu – US Open 2021 – World No. 150
This British star is one of two teens to have taken the 2021 US Open by storm.
Ranked 338 in the world just prior to Wimbledon 2021, the 18-year-old leapt to number 150 after a fourth round run at The Championships and results in the US prior to the New York Slam.
Coming through qualifying, nobody could have expected the breakthrough talent to go so far as the final.
Raducanu won six matches in straight sets, added to her three qualifying rounds, for a streak of 18 consecutive sets.
She is the first qualifier ever, man or woman, to reach a Grand Slam final.
1. Kim Clijsters – US Open 2009 – unranked
After retiring from tennis to begin a family in 2007, former world number one Clijsters began a comeback just prior to the 2009 US Open.
The Belgian did not yet have a ranking, and was handed a wildcard into the tournament that she had won in 2005.
Clijsters ousted two seeds in Marion Bartoli (14th) and Venus Williams (third) in the second and fourth rounds respectively to set up a meeting with 18th seed Li Na of China.
After winning in straight sets, Clijsters faced Serena Williams in what became an infamous and controversial match, as Williams threatened a line judge after losing a point to a foot fault.
She was then given a point penalty on match point to hand Clijsters the win.
The Belgian completed her astonishing run by defeating 19-year-old ninth seed Caroline Wozniacki, 7-5, 6-3.
Honourable Mention – Leylah Fernandez – US Open 2021 – World No. 73
The other half of the unbelievable women’s final line-up at the 2021 US Open, Canadian Leylah Fernandez came into the tournament ranked at 73 in the world.
She came up against tough opponents early, including two-time US Open champion Naomi Osaka and 2016 champion Angelique Kerber in the second and third rounds.
Fernandez dismissed both in three sets, coming back from down a set. She then overcame a second top-10 player in Elina Svitlona, before completing her run to the final by conquering world number two Aryna Sabalenka.
In addition to her accomplishment, Fernandez and Raducanu combined make for the first fully unseeded final in US Open history.
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