There’s nothing quite like an underdog story.

Despite the respect and admiration garnered by the all-time greats of the sporting world and for the remarkable, and often record-breaking statistics they rack-up in terms of victories recorded and trophies won, they never elicit quite the same heartwarming feeling of someone upsetting the odds.

Tennis has produced more than its fair share of underdog stories and this week, yet another materialised.

At the first grand slam of the season, Dayana Yastremska made a thrilling run to the semi-finals of the Australian Open.

Even many of the most extreme tennis nerds knew little, if anything, about Yastremska prior to her breakthrough in Melbourne.

The 23-year-old is currently ranked 93 in the world but, despite a testing draw, swept into the last four of the women’s singles, ultimately losing out to China’s Qinweng Zheng for a place in the final. 

Yastremska’s surge caught the eye not only for the calibre of players she was forced to defeat on her way to the final four – having come through qualifying, all five of her main draw opponents were ranked inside the world’s top 50 – but also for the quite remarkable challenges she’s been forced to endure over the past two years.

The Herald: Against the odds, Dayana Yastremska reached the semi-finals of the Australian OpenAgainst the odds, Dayana Yastremska reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open

Yastremska is Ukrainian and in February 2022, was forced to leave her home with her sister after Russia’s invasion of her country.

After two days hiding in an underground car park sheltering from Russian bombs, the sisters fled the country, leaving their parents behind.

Finally, Yastremska’s mum also escaped, but her father remains in Ukraine.

Knowing her background, there’s few who haven’t been delighted by Yastremska’s odds-defying run through the draw over the past fortnight, with her semi-final appearance ensuring she’s the first qualifier since 1978 to reach the last four of the women’s singles at the Australian Open.

Her’s is just one of many stories that remind us why underdogs in sport are so special.

Here’s a few more:


Prior to 2016, just five teams had won the Premier League in its 24-year history and throughout the 2000s, the gap between the league’s elite and the rest was becoming a gaping chasm.

There was, it seemed, no chance for the smaller teams to make any impact at all on the upper echelons of the table, never mind challenge for the title.

Until, that is, Leicester City decided to ignore the presumptions that the big teams were untouchable.

The Herald: Leicester City were Premier League champions in 2016Leicester City were Premier League champions in 2016 At the start of the 2015/16 season, Leicester were 5000-1 outsiders to win the Premier League title and week after week, pundits predicted their run of form would collapse, leaving them to drop away from the top few league places that they occupied from early in the season.

That capitulation never happened, however, and ultimately, a draw between second-placed Spurs and Chelsea saw Leicester win the most unexpected Premier League title in history.



As a fresh-faced teenager, Emma Raducanu turned up at the 2021 US Open with little pressure upon her shoulders. 

Despite a strong run at Wimbledon a few weeks previously, no one expected Raducanu to make much of a mark in New York.

The Herald: Emma Raducanu

However, after easing through qualifying, the draw opened up for the then 18-year-old who was ranked 150 in the world, and she took advantage in the best possible way.

A victory in the final over Canadian, Leylah Fernandez, saw Raducanu become the first qualifier, male or female, to win a Grand Slam tournament in the Open Era.



That the USA’s Winter Olympic ice-hockey gold medal in 1980 has been dubbed “The Miracle on Ice” says it all.

Going into those Winter Olympics, which were held in New York, the USSR’s men’s ice hockey team were seen as invincible having won the past four Olympic gold medals.

When the USA faced the tournament favourites in the medal round of the tournament, it was viewed as a David v Goliath contest.

But, against all the odds, the USA, whose team was comprised of amateurs and college stars, notched up a famous victory to stage one of the greatest underdog wins in sporting history.



Going into his bout with Mike Tyson in 1990 in Tokyo, few knew who Douglas was.

Tyson was, at that point, undefeated and was expected to retain his IBF, WBC and WBA world heavyweight belts with ease.

That Douglas’ mother had died from a stroke at the age of 46 just 23 days before the fight didn’t help the underdog’s preparation either.

However, Douglas started the fight strongly and continued in that vein, with an astonishing knockout in the tenth round handing Tyson his first-ever professional loss.

Douglas’ reign didn’t last long; later that year, he was defeated by Evander Holyfield to lose his belts but his victory over Tyson remains one of the most remarkable underdog wins in sport.



When Greece travelled to Portugal for the 2004 European Football Championships, they’d never won a single game at a major tournament.

Their first major upset came in the tournament’s opening game, when they defeated hosts Portugal, 2-1.


After scraping into the knock-out stages, little was expected of the minnows but wins over France and tournament favourites, Czech Republic, saw them, once again, face hosts, Portugal, in the final.

Greece finished the tournament as they’d begun it, with another victory over Portugal, this time 1-0 to see them crowned European Champions in what remains one of the biggest upsets in international football.