US Open: How Tracy Austin became the youngest ever champion in New York

Tracy Austin

Since its maiden tournament in 1881, the US Open has not been short of its iconic moments.

Titles have changed hands and records have been broken, but one landmark that was set more than 40 years ago still remains.

In 1979, the USA’s Tracy Austin made history by becoming the youngest ever winner of the US Open.

The young trailblazer was just 16 years of age when she beat the legendary Chris Evert in a straight sets victory.

Since Austin’s historic triumph, other young stars have won the title at Flushing Meadows, including Serena Williams and Emma Raducanu. However, the US star remains the youngest title-holder at the tournament on record.

Tracy Austin’s historic career

Austin was 14 years old when she won her first professional singles title but at the time, she was still competing as an amateur and therefore could not accept any prize money for her achievement.

In 1978, the rising teen star turned pro and described the decision as one that would not necessarily change her life, but instead of roses, she would be receiving money for winning.

Just after her 16th birthday in 1979, Austin beat Martina Navratilova in two tournament finals to add to her rapidly growing honours list.

Later that year, she beat Billie Jean King in the Wimbledon quarter-finals, but was victim of Navratilova extracting revenge in the semis.

WIMBLEDON – JUNE 1977: Tracy Austin of the United States smiles during a match at the 1977 Wimbledon Tennis Championships. (Photo by Tony Duffy/Getty Images)

With wins over some of tennis’ most iconic players already under her belt at just 16 years of age, the world had its eyes glued to Austin’s potential on the court.

Sure enough, it was just months before the teenage sensation really showcased her potential.

During the 1979 US Open, Austin lost just one set on her route to glory on home soil.

She made easy work of beating Ivanna Madruga, Andrea Jaeger, and Kate Latham in straight sets during the first three rounds.

Kathy Jordan put Austin on the back foot by claiming the first set, but an inspired comeback saw the 16-year-old sneak into the quarter-finals, where she defeated Sylvia Hanika.

American tennis player Tracy Austin at Wimbledon, 1980. (Photo by Tony Duffy/Getty Images)

Austin met with Navratilova again in the US Open semi-final and beat the 18-time Grand Slam winner in a thrilling 7-5, 7-5 win.

This set her up for a final showdown with compatriot Chris Evert, who was on track to win her fifth consecutive US Open title and had just beaten King in the semis.

However, Austin completely stunned the former world number one to claim her first Grand Slam title and become the youngest winner Flushing Meadows has ever seen.

What happened to Tracy Austin?

Throughout her career, Austin won a total of 30 singles titles, including two victories at the US Open which came in 1979 and 1981.

She won on every single playing surface from clay and hard courts, to grass and indoor carpet.

Unfortunately, her time on the court was cut short after she suffered a series of injuries and was involved in a near-fatal motor vehicle accident in 1989.

The terrible crash left Austin with a shattered knee, a bruised heart and spleen, and a sprained back.

NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND – JULY 16: Tracy Austin is introduced before the International Tennis Hall of Fame 2022 Induction Ceremony on July 16, 2022 in Newport, Rhode Island. (Photo by Brian Fluharty/Getty Images for International Tennis Hall of Fame)

Along with setting the record for the youngest US Open winner in history, Austin also became the youngest player to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

She received the honour three years after her crash at age 29, and while she did try to make a comeback on the court, she was not quite the same player and eventually retired in 1994.

Since calling time on her tennis career, Austin has worked as a commentator for NBC and the USA Network, covering the US Open and the French Open.

Her career may have been tragically cut short, but Austin’s meteoric rise to the top will always be implemented in tennis history and will forever inspire new generations.

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