Coco Gauff practices on stadium court 5 on Sunday October 3, 2021 in Indian Wells, California. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/BNPPO)
Anyone can win.
It’s main theme in all the answers you get from players in press conferences when they’re asked about the state of women’s tennis. And that’s what makes it amazing.
In an era of both unprecedented depth mixed with consistency at the very top of the game, the WTA Tour is showing its best at every turn and is showing no signs of stopping.
As we kick off main-draw action at the BNP Paribas Open this October (a first in the history of the tournament), here’s a spotlight on some of the must-watch young stars of women’s tennis ready to stir up a storm in the Palm Desert.
👋 @marta_kostyuk pic.twitter.com/9lruOh5uEO
— Jimmie48 Photography (@JJlovesTennis) September 26, 2021
Known For: Reaching the third round of the 2018 Australian Open as a 15-year-old qualifier a year after winning the junior title in Melbourne.
For the hardcore tennis fan, it feels like Marta Kostyuk has been around for a while. But if you’re newer to the women’s tennis scene, you might not have heard of the 5’9” teenager from Ukraine. She burst onto the scene back in 2018 with an unlikely Grand Slam run, before the weight of expectations of replicating top results week-in, week-out got the better of her.
Now more mature and surprisingly introspective about her mental health struggles early in her career, Kostyuk has made meaningful strides at the top level, reaching a career-high ranking of World No. 55 this year and reached the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time at Roland-Garros in May.
The Ukrainian all-courter takes on No. 11 seed Simona Halep in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open following a rollercoaster three-set win over Zhang Shuai in her opener on Wednesday afternoon.
Known For: Winning the 2021 US Open after coming through qualifying, not dropping a set en route.
Flashback to the start of Wimbledon this year. Emma Raducanu, a British prospect but hardly known outside tennis circles with their eye on the juniors, was ranked in the mid 300’s. Two weeks later, her ranking skyrockets following a fourth-round showing, consolidated by a maiden WTA 125 title in Chicago.
Three weeks later? She’s the US Open champion.
It’s been a meteoric rise for Great Britain’s new No. 1, despite minimal experience at the WTA Tour level. Raducanu is seeded 17th this week in Palm Springs, and will open her campaign against Maria Camilia Osorio Serrano or Aliaksandra Sasnovich, with a potential third-round clash against 2015 champion Simona Halep looming after.
Known For: Defeating three Top 5 players to reach the 2021 US Open final.
Canada’s diminutive left-hander won the hearts of the New York City crowd with back-to-back-to-back-to-back thrilling wins over world-class opponents at the US Open this year. Beating one of Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber, Elina Svitolina or Aryna Sabalenka would be an impressive enough feat for any young player – but to defeat all four in consecutive three-set matches on the biggest stage in tennis? Mind-blowing.
Although Leylah Fernandez ultimately bowed out to fellow teen sensation Raducanu in a competitive final, her baseline-hugging, geometric tennis proved that players of any height or size can succeed in women’s tennis.
Up first for the No. 23 seed in Tennis Paradise is Alizé Cornet in a section that features Roland-Garros finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Olympic champion Belinda Bencic.
Known For: Reaching the second week of Wimbledon as a 15-year-old qualifier, youngest player to win a WTA title since 2004.
Cori ‘Coco’ Gauff took the world by storm back in 2019. As an unheralded but immensely talented 15-year-old prospect, she marched through qualifying at Wimbledon, defeated five-time champion Venus Williams in the first round, then scored two more dramatic wins to catapult her into the spotlight.
She backed up her Wimbledon run with a third-round finish at the US Open just two months later and instantly became a household name.
Gauff is still only 17, but has years of experience on tour – and two professional titles – under her belt. Each week that passes you see a more improved version of the same player, with big looping forehands, thunderous backhands and a world-class serve, which have seen her soar into the Top 20 and a true contender at each event she plays.
The American sensation opens against Kristen Flipkens or Caroline Garcia after a bye into the second round, and could play reigning French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova for a place in the quarter-finals.