Generation Next: Eight players to watch for in women’s tennis
When Coco Gauff had her stunning breakthrough last year in women’s tennis, the then-15-year-old generated plenty of “youngest since” headlines in a sport that was once dominated by teenage stars.
Age eligibility rules have limited players under 18 from playing full pro schedules, but that didn’t stop Gauff from beating Venus Williams at Wimbledon, winning her first WTA title in the fall, and then also triumphing over defending champ Naomi Osaka at this year’s Australian Open.
But who are the other young stars to watch out for in women’s tennis? Or, who are the players that might be able to emulate what Coco did (the American is now ranked No.52) in the near future?
Here, we’re picked eight teenaged players who are looking for their big breakthrough.
Leylah Annie Fernandez, Canada, 17
Junior ranking: 11 Pro: 117
Big title: French Open, 2019
Fernandez has, like Gauff, made the leap from the junior ranks into the seniors, having reached No.1 in the world in juniors with her Parisian triumph in the spring of 2019.
The lefty made the final of the Acapulco event earlier this year, nearly halving her WTA ranking. She’s the latest prospect from Canada, following the breakout success stories of Bianca Andreescu, Denis Shapovalov, Felix Auger-Aliassime and others. Last summer, Romanian superstar Simona Halep played doubles alongside the Canadian in Toronto, saying, “No advice from me… (She just needs to be) confident that she's there and she feels the game at the highest level. It's a good start. She has everything to do well in tennis, so she knows what she does.”
Quite the ringing endorsement from a two-time Slam champ…
Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva, Andorra, 15
Junior ranking: 1 Pro: U/R
Big title: Australian Open, 2020
Can you say Victoria’s full name three times fast? The Andorran turns 15 in August, but was a headline-maker back in January when she won four come-from-behind matches at the Australian Open to become the first tennis player from the tiny European nation of Andorra (population 77,000) to win a junior Grand Slam. She was also making her major debut… and was the youngest player in the draw.
“It’s my parents that gave me (my) fighting spirit. It’s them,” Jimenez Kasintseva told the ITF after her AO triumph. “I’m competitive in and out of the court. I was born with it. But also, losing is learning and if you want to be a tennis player, you have to learn to lose. It’s part of the game.”
She’s had quite the teacher, too: Her father, her coach, is Joan Jimenez Guerra, who reached world No.505 in the 1990s and is now a tennis teaching pro.
“It’s my parents that gave me (my) fighting spirit. It’s them." --Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva
Robin Montgomery, USA, 15
Junior ranking: 5 Pro: 600
Big title: Orange Bowl, 2019
Ask anyone in the American tennis scene who to watch for “next” among U.S. junior girls and Montgomery is it. The 15-year-old left-hander packs a big game, and trains at the same D.C.-area facility as established American star Frances Tiafoe, who has been ranked as high as world No.29.
Montgomery told the ITF this spring: “I am proud of how far I come, but the work doesn’t stop now. My confidence is around the same as before, my past results are just stepping stones toward my bigger goals.”
Speaking of stepping stones: After a quarter-final finish at the junior AO (where she lost a lead vs. eventual champ Jimenez Kasintseva), Montgomery won a ITF World Tennis Tour $25,000 pro event in Las Vegas, beating three top 300 players along the way.
Maria Camila Osorio Serrano, Colombia, 18
Junior ranking: 20 Pro: 205
Big title: US Open, 2019
Following in the footsteps of South American stars like Gabriela Sabatini, Gustavo Kuerten and Juan Martin Del Potro, Colombian Osorio Serrano reached No.1 in the world in juniors after her triumph at the US Open last September.
She has already had a pro ranking inside the top 200 (career-high No.184), having won three titles on the ITF’s pro tour, including two in 2019. She was the bronze medallist at the Youth Olympics at Buenos Aires 2018, where another pair of must-see players took gold (Kaja Juvan) and silver (Clara Burel), respectively.
With over 40,000 Instagram followers, she’s a hit on social media, too. She was honoured by the Colombian Olympic Committee at the end of the 2019 season.
The Fruhirtova sisters, Czech Republic
Ages: 15 and 13
Tennis has had plenty of sibling acts: The Williams sisters, the Bryan brothers, Marat Safin and Dinara Safina… Are these two next? Linda (15) and Brenda (13) Fruhirtova would like to be, both with marked success in their young lives already and a Czech tennis program that has produced stars like Rio 2016 bronze medalist Petra Kvitova, Karolina Pliskova and others.
Linda, the older of the Fruhirtova siblings, has been ranked as high as No.10 in the juniors with consistent results, while Brenda has made headlines as the pro tennis tour has been on hiatus, notching a win over world No.54 Katerina Siniakova at a Czech national event.
Brenda has got plenty of swagger, too:
The sisters share something in common with Gauff as well as Serena: They train with famed French coach Patrick Mouratoglou. They have each also won the prestigious Les Petits As event in France, with former champs including Rafael Nadal and Martina Hingis. Linda was champ in 2019, and Brenda just this year.
Wang Xiyu, China, 19
Junior ranking: U/R Pro: 107
Big title: US Open, 2018
China is still looking for its next big star to follow in the footsteps of crowd favourite Li Na, a two-time Grand Slam winner and now national hero. Wang could be that, already nearing the double-digits with her ranking following junior Grand Slam singles (USO 2018) and doubles (Wimbledon 2019) success.
It was at Wimbledon in 2019 that Wang won alongside compatriot Wang Xinyu, and the two are pushing each other towards greatness: They are the only Chinese teenagers ranked inside the top 500. The left-hander stands 5-foot-11 (1.52m) and will look to carry her momentum forward when tennis resumes in full again: She was a semi-finalist in Acapulco at the same event Fernandez finished as runner-up.