What happened the last time two teens played for the women's US Open?

A call from Bill Clinton and a revenge mission for her sister… how 17-year-old Serena Williams beat Martina Hingis in 1999 – the last time two teen sensations battled for the women’s US Open as Emma Raducanu follows in their footsteps

  • Emma Raducanu faces fellow teen sensation Leylah Fernandez in US Open final 
  • The last time two teenagers fought for the trophy at Flushing Meadows was 1999
  • Two women who would go on to become legends played in showpiece that year
  • Serena Williams beat Martina Hingis for her first Grand Slam of her 23 in total
  • She received a call from President Bill Clinton on an unforgettable day for her 

The eyes of the world will be on teen sensations Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez when they go toe-to-toe in the US Open final on Saturday. 

The young superstars have the world at their feet and if they’re looking for some pearls of wisdom before the big day, they could do far worse than giving Serena Williams or Martina Hingis a call. 

The last time two teenagers competed in the women’s US Open final was back in 1999 when Hingis and Williams were at the start of their promising careers. 

Serena Williams (right) defeated Martina Hingis (left) for the US Open women’s title the last time two teenagers competed for the prize at Flushing Meadows back in 1999

Emma Raducanu (left) and Leylah Fernandez are following in Hingis and Williams’ footsteps

Hingis was 18 and already had a singles Grand Slam title in the bag having won the Australian Open aged 16. 

Williams was in her second year as a pro but was clearly destined for greatness and was seeking revenge after her sister, Venus, had been knocked out by Hingis in the semi-finals.   

It proved to be a historic and emotional day with Williams becoming the first black woman to win a Grand Slam since Althea Gibson in 1958.

She downed Hingis 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) with a blistering show of attacking tennis, not dissimilar to the clean ball striking Raducanu has showcased so far, although the Williams serve was more of a thunderous weapon. 

‘Those serves were, like, smacking,’ Hingis said afterwards. 

There were intense baseline rallies from the young guns but it was Williams with ice in her veins in the big moments, cashing in on the £540,000 prize money. 

And Williams could hardly contain her excitement after securing the straight sets win. 

‘It’s just too exciting to compute right now,’ she gushed.

‘It’s really amazing for me to even have an opportunity to be compared to a player as great as Althea Gibson. 

‘One of her best friends told me she wanted to see another African American win a slam before her time is up. I’m so excited I had a chance to accomplish that while she’s still alive.’

Then moments after her triumph, there was a special call of congratulations from Bill Clinton, who was in New Zealand at the time. 

She added: ‘I thought for sure my day couldn’t get any better. The next thing they told me is the president of the United States wanted to talk. I was, like, “wow”.

‘I didn’t know what to do – laugh or cry or just scream – so I think I did it all.’

There had been moments of tension, particularly in the second set tie break but a key point came when Williams stepped inside the baseline to wallop a Hingis serve back down the line for a 5-4 lead. 

The American superstar would go on to claim 23 more Grand Slam titles and has not yet retired

Hingis (right) was 18 and had already won Grand Slam titles in singles and doubles in 1999

A Hingis lob fell astray before she again fired long, giving Williams her first Grand Slam. The 17-year-old was shell-shocked, covered her face with her hands and sunk to the ground. 

To make Williams’ victory all the more astonishing, she came through having made 57 unforced errors, which was 33 more than Hingis. 

When told the stat, she replied: ‘Wow! Imagine if I stop making those errors. That’s, like, inconceivable.’

There was also a word on Venus, who Hingis had fought past in the previous match but that only fuelled Serena’s fire. 

‘Venus was so bummed,’ she said. ‘She felt so bad because her legs had totally given out. She was really down, and that encouraged me to be even tougher out there.’ 

It was clear to see that a rivalry was developing and was only enhanced when Williams’ father and coach, Richard, made a passing dig at Hingis, saying she looked ‘scared’. 

Williams dictated the play with her groundstrokes and won the match despite 57 errors 

Raducanu has not dropped a set so far en route to the US Open final this Saturday

Hingis’ pointed response was: ‘I wasn’t the only person at the end who was scared. 


‘She had two match points that she wasn’t able to close out. I think she was a bit more scared than I was actually at the end because I’ve been there, done it.’

The performance was a clear sign of what was to come. In total, she struck eight aces on the day, taking her total to 60 for the tournament, that was 40 more than anyone else.  

Williams, of course, went on to become one of the all-time greats of the game and Hingis finished her career with five singles Grand Slams to her name. 

Raducanu and Fernandez will make the same walk to Arthur Ashe Stadium on Saturday and sporting immortality awaits one of the teenage stars. 

If either woman manages to follow in the footsteps of Williams or Hingis the road ahead will be paved with gleaming silverware.  

Williams began her remarkable career winning Grand Slams 22 years ago and if Raducanu can have even a slice of the same success it will be a remarkable achievement 

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