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US Open: Five teenagers who could break through

Teenagers Linda Nosková and Emma Raducanu shake hands after a match. (Andy Cheung/Getty Images)

Last year’s US Open final featured two teenagers for the first time since the 1999 US Open — where a 17-year-old Serena Williams won her first major title against an 18-year-old Martina Hingis.

At the 2021 Grand Slam, unseeded 18-year-old Emma Raducanu beat out unseeded 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez for her own inaugural major title.

In total, teenagers have won 11 US Open women’s singles titles during the Open era, dating back to 16-year-old Tracy Austin’s win at Flushing Meadows in 1979.

As Williams prepares for her final US Open and Raducanu prepares for her title defense, Just Women’s Sports takes a look at five teenagers who could make waves at this year’s tournament.

Coco Gauff

While Raducanu and Fernandez are both 19 as the tournament begins, the obvious choices will not be included on our list. But nestled between No. 11 Raducanu and No. 14 Fernandez in the world rankings sits No. 12 Coco Gauff.

In June, the same month in which she graduated from high school, the American made – and subsequently lost – her first Grand Slam final at the French Open. Still, the loss showed that the 18-year-old is ready to step onto the sport’s biggest stages.

Since then, she’s rocketed to No. 1 in the doubles world rankings, and she is oh so close on the singles side.

She represents the leading edge of the next generation of American tennis, a heavy burden to bear with Williams’ retirement approaching. Still, Gauff has taken the pressure in stride.

And if Gauff is truly the next American superstar, then it would be all too fitting for her first major to come at the US Open that is to be the final chapter for one of the game’s all-time-greats.

Gauff’s health could be a question mark, as she had to pull out of the Cincinnati Open after rolling her ankle in the first round, but she has described the injury as “really minor.”

Qinwen Zheng

Ranked at a career-high No. 41, 19-year old Qinwen Zheng is another player who has the talent to make a deep run.

Zheng turned heads at the French Open in May. In her fourth-round match, she won a set in a tiebreak against world No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who was in the midst of her 37-match win streak. In a show of Swiatek’s dominance but also Zheng’s ability, the set was the only one Swiatek dropped en route to the title at Roland Garros.

The Chinese teen followed that up with a win against 2018 US Open champion Sloane Stephens at Wimbledon. Zheng made it to the third round before losing to eventual champion Elena Rybakina.

In her most recent tournament, she became the first Chinese player to advance to the quarterfinals at the Canadian Open since Na Li in 2013. While No. 1 seed Ons Jabeur had to retire in their second-round match, Zheng took the first set of that match 6-1. She backed up that walkover with a win over Bianca Andreescu before falling in three sets to Karolina Pliskova.

Clara Tauson

At 19 years old, Clara Tauson of Denmark has made a splash. The youngest Danish champion since Caroline Wozniacki, she turned pro in 2019.

While she currently sits 58th in the world, Tauson has risen as high as 33rd. She won 42 matches in her breakout 2021 season.

Her best major finish so far came at the Australian Open in January, as she upset sixth-seeded Anett Kontaveit in the second round before falling to Danielle Collins in the third.

A month later, she made her WTA 1000 main draw debut in Qatar, where she beat Olympic champion Belinda Bencic in straight sets before losing to third-seeded Paula Badosa. And a month after that, at Indian Wells, she advanced to the third round before losing in three sets to eventual champion Swiatek during her streak.

Tauson has dealt with back injuries since then, however, having to withdraw from the Italian Open and Wimbledon. At the Cincinnati Open she was ousted in the first qualifying round by Ajla Tomlajanovic in straight sets, but she bested Harmony Tan in the round of 32 at Tennis in the Land.

Diane Parry

Diane Parry has had a career year, reaching the third round at both the French Open and Wimbledon. Ranked at a career-high No. 76, the 18-year-old is coming off a loss in the Cincinnati qualifiers – but it came in three sets against eventual champion Caroline Garcia.

Parry is one of just two players in the top 100 to play with a single-handed backhand, but she uses the relatively rare shot to her advantage.

She made an impression at Roland Garros, knocking off defending champion Barbora Krejcikova in three sets in the first round. At the same tournament in 2019, a 16-year-old Parry became the youngest woman to win a main-draw match at the major since 2009.

At Wimbledon, she beat former world No. 15 Kaia Kanepi in straight sets before losing to third-seeded Ons Jabeur in the third round.

Linda Nosková

In the first round at the French Open in May, Nosková lost to Raducanu in three sets after taking the first in a tiebreak. The loss came after the 17-year-old made her way through qualifiers as the reigning junior 2021 Roland Garros champion, becoming the youngest qualifier at the major in 13 years.

Nosková has been more active on the lower-tier ITF tour this year, winning in Germany and France and making the semifinals of tournaments in Kazakhstan and Spain. But her two WTA events this year, Nosková made it to the semifinals.

In Prague, she beat Alizé Cornet in the fourth round before losing to Marie Bouzkova in the semis, while at the Makarska Open in Croatia she had an easy time reaching the semifinals before falling to Jule Niemeier.

With those runs, the world No. 88 became just the second player born after 2004 to make a WTA semifinal, joining Gauff.