631 views | Francis Azuka | January 19, 2021
Over the last two decades or so, both men’s and women’s tennis has been dominated by the same old names. Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have mostly stolen the headlines and won Grand Slam trophies galore. But, in more recent times, especially in the women’s game, we have started to see young players challenge the seasoned professionals on all fronts.
The WTA Tour rankings are dominated with breakthrough players, including Naomi Osaka, Ashleigh Bartley and Sofia Kenin, whilst the likes of Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsisipas and Alexander Zverev have the big three constantly looking over their shoulders in the men’s game.
With the Australian Open now just around the corner, the next generation of players will once again be aiming to make a name for themselves by landing the Gland Slam title at Melbourne Park. So, read on as we take a look at some of the youngsters to watch come February 8th.
Coco Gauff is only 16 years of age, but she has already caused a stir in the world of tennis. In 2019, she sent shockwaves rippling through the sport when she knocked Venus Williams out of the Wimbledon Championships in the first round with a straight sets victory over the five-time English Grand Slam champion. She went on to reach the fourth round of the competition – not bad for a debutant. At her first Australian Open last January, she was at it again, this time pushing defending champion Osaka to the wayside in the third round. However, eventual winner Kenin proved too strong for her in the fourth round. This year, Gauff’s name won’t be at the top of the Australian Open odds, but she will definitely be hoping to best her Grand Slam record of reaching the fourth round.
19-year-old IgaŚwiątek stunned the field at the French Open late last year. The young Polish professional was yet to even win a singles title let alone a Grand Slam, but she played impeccably at Roland Garros, beating some of the biggest names in women’s tennis en route to her maiden major crown. In the fourth round, which was her previous best in Paris, she defeated World No. 2 Simona Halep before denying Kenin of her second Grand Slam of the year with a 6-4, 6-1 victory in the final. She also reached the fourth round of last year’s Aussie Open, but with a major title now under her belt since then, she will certainly be one to watch next month.
Świątek wasn’t the only teenager to make a breakthrough at last year’s French Open. Over in the men’s game, Jannik Sinner was making his presence felt. The 19-year-old, who is the youngest member of the top 100, became the first male since Djokovic in 2006 to reach the quarter-finals of the competition. He even knocked out World No. 6 Zverev along the way. However, the King of Clay Nadal proved too strong in the quarters. The 2019 US Open was Sinner’s first taste of Grand Slam tennis, but a tricky draw against Stan Wawrinka resulted in a first-round exit for the Italian. While in last year’s Australian Open, he progressed to the second-round.