WHEN it comes to the WTA Tour, there is no doubt that youngsters are on their way up with plenty of developing talent showcasing their wares throughout the season so far. An all teenage grand slam final was seen for the first time since 1999 as Great Britain’s Emma Raducanu and Canada’s Leylah Fernandez faced off for the US Open title, so we take a look at how the WTA Tour’s young guns fared at the last grand slam of the 2021 calendar year.
It is hard to skip past the incredible run of the 2021 US Open champion, with 18-year-old Raducanu showcasing just what she is capable of. Everyone seems to know the talented teen’s run to the final by now, but lets quickly skim through her US Open journey: firstly, the qualifiers – Raducanu overcame all three of her qualifying opposition, with her higher ranking and straight sets victories in the first two qualifying matches seeing her come into the third round against fourth seeded Mayar Sherif with plenty of confidence. Another straight sets win saw Raducanu head into the main draw, disposing of another qualifier in the process, before facing a string of top 50 players – #49 Zhang Shuai, who saw no change to her ranking following the event, then #41 Sara Sorribes Tormo (now #37) and then #43 Shelby Rogers (now #46). Raducanu then disposed of two seeds in Belinda Bencic and Maria Sakkari to reach the final, overcoming an old foe in Fernandez to earn the crown.
While Raducanu claimed the title, Fernandez had an even more star-studded lineup than the eventual winner making her US Open journey that much more intriguing. A guaranteed entry prior to the event due to her ranking, Fernandez entered with nothing to lose and everything to gain. A first round qualifier was easy pickings for the Canadian, denying Ana Konjuh a chance at proceeding, before surviving a tight second round clash with unseeded Kaia Kanepi. It was her third round that really got people talking though, losing the first set to Naomi Osaka before taking charge and overcoming the 2020 champion in outstanding form, before defeating three more seeds – and two top fives in Aryna Sabalenka and Elina Svitolina – to reach the final, all in three sets. While her luck and endurance seemingly ran out in the final, there is no doubting Fernandez’s run to the final was just as – if not more – impressive as Raducanu’s breakout weeks on tour.
The third teen in the event was Gauff, with it hard to believe that she is the youngest of the trio so far, having been a main fixture on the tour for a number of years now. Still only 17-years-old and remarkably consistent despite her age, Gauff sits at a career high world number 19 and is still the youngest player within the top 330 worldwide. Gauff has moved up from world number 23 prior to the US Open, and despite only making it to the second round – falling to compatriot and former champion Sloane Stephens – showcased yet again just what she is capable of when she and doubles partner Caty McNally made it all the way to the US Open doubles final. While Gauff and McNally were ultimately unsuccessful against veterans Sam Stosur and Zhang, the future is looking bright.
Of the remaining teen talents participating at the US Open, two made it to the second round before falling, with 19-year-old Clara Tauson disposing of 20-year-old Clara Burel in the first round before drawing world number one Ash Barty in the second round, while 19-year-old Colombian Maria Camila Osorio Serrano faced down Ons Jabeur in the second round and barely made a dint against the 20th seed Tunisian. A 19-year-old Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk did not make it further than the first round of the singles draw, but made it to the doubles Round of 16 in a solid feat.
In the US Open junior girls event, it was 17-year-old American Robin Montgomery who claimed the crown, defeating 17-year-old Belarusian Kristina Dmitruk 6-2 6-4. The left-hander was seeded seventh at the event with Dmitruk seeded sixth, with both stepping up to higher ITF junior rankings in the process. Montgomery became the sixth American junior girls US Open champion and also clinched the doubles title alongside compatriot Ashlyn Krueger.
Picture credit: Pete Staples/USTA