FRENCH OPEN 2021: From Gauff to Alcaraz, tennis’ teen set

Just before heading to the French Open, Coco Gauff won the singles and doubles titles at a clay-court event in Parma, Italy, pushing her ranking to a career-best No. 25.

Still just 17, Gauff is the youngest American woman in the WTA’s Top 25 since none other than Serena Williams way back in 1998. And Gauff will be seeded at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time when action begins Sunday in Paris.

“It’s cool to have a high ranking, but that’s not my goal. To be No. 1 would be cool, don’t get me wrong. But my goal is to win Grand Slams,” Gauff said during a video conference from Roland Garros on Friday. “I’m sure with the Grand Slams, a No. 1 ranking would come, but it’s not something that I focus on. My goal is just to win Grand Slams — and all the numbers and all that will come with that.”

She is part of a group of tennis players fans and opponents should be paying attention to as they try to rise to the top and join youngsters such as Iga Swiatek and Bianca Andreescu, both of whom already won a major title as a teen in recent years.

Here is a look at a quartet of the teen set in tennis who eventually could end up in the spotlight during the inevitable shift as the sport’s standard-bearers — Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic — move from their mid-30s to their late 30s and, soon enough, their 40s.


Age: 17

Country: U.S.

Ranked: 25

Tour Singles Titles: 2

Grand Slam Appearances: 6

Best Grand Slam Result: Fourth Round (2019 Wimbledon, 2020 Australian Open)

Facts: Youngest woman to sweep singles and doubles titles at one WTA tournament since Maria Sharapova in 2004. … Youngest qualifier in Wimbledon history (16 in 2019). … Coached by father, Cori; also works with Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena Williams’ coach. … Backhand is best shot; forehand is becoming more dangerous.

Words: “I like the dirt now. I always talk about … how I don’t like it. But I like it now.” — Gauff, after her success on clay in Parma.


Age: 18

Country: Spain

Ranked: 94

Tour Singles Titles: 0

Grand Slam Appearances: 1

Best Grand Slam Result: Second Round (2021 Australian Open)

Facts: Qualified for French Open. … Has jumped 41 spots in the rankings since the end of last season. … In May, became the youngest man to make his ATP Top 100 debut since Borna Coric in 2014; in April became the youngest man to reach an ATP semifinal since that same year. … Big groundstrokes; needs to improve his serve.

Words: “When you make a salad and you are putting ingredients inside the salad, he has … plenty of ingredients to become a great player.” — 20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal, after beating Alcaraz on clay at the Madrid Open in May.



Age: 18

Country: Denmark

Ranked: 90

Tour Singles Titles: 1

Grand Slam Appearances: 1

Best Grand Slam Result: Second Round (2020 French Open)

Facts: Won her first tour-level title on a hard court at Lyon, France, in March, going through qualifying and then beating the No. 1 seed in the main draw. She did not drop a set along the way. … Won the 2019 Australian Open junior title.

Words: “When I play like this, I think I can beat some really good players.” — Tauson, after the final in Lyon.



Age: 19

Country: Italy

Ranked: 19

Tour Singles Titles: 2

Grand Slam Appearances: 5

Best Grand Slam Result: Quarterfinals (2020 French Open)

Facts: He was the first teenager to reach the Miami men’s final since Novak Djokovic in 2007 and the youngest semifinalist at Barcelona since Rafael Nadal in 2005. … Last year at Roland Garros, he was the first man to reach the quarterfinals on his debut in Paris since Nadal in 2005 and the youngest male quarterfinalist there since Djokovic in 2006. … Was a top ski racer in his younger days. … Part of a crop of young Italian men rising in the rankings, including another teen, No. 76 Lorenzo Musetti.

Words: “For a young player like this, what we normally would see and expect is … a couple of good weeks here and there, but the consistency is not there until the young player matures. With him, it’s different. He really has a good mind-set. He seems more mature for his age than the rest of the guys with the way he’s playing and training.” — Djokovic, after beating Sinner in Monte Carlo.


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