Saturday, March 11, 2023 - Holger Rune plays against Mackenzie McDonald in the 2nd round of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Kathryn Riley/BNP Paribas Open)
The winds of change are well and truly blowing through Tennis Paradise. If you haven’t noticed, a quick glance at the draw will tell you all you need to know. Four teenagers and a bevy of other youngsters who have barely turned 20 are making their mark on this year’s BNP Paribas Open, and many of them have designs on the title.
Read on to find out more about seven players aged 21 or younger who could be battling for the Baccarat crystal on championship Sunday.
The youngest player remaining in either singles draw at the BNP Paribas Open is also one of the most rapid risers on the WTA Tour. World No.54 Linda Noskova was outside the Top 200 this time last year. Now she turning heads on her Indian Wells debut and ready for a clash with the next young gun on our list…
You know Coco Gauff well. She’s been on the scene since she smashed through Wimbledon’s gates as a 15-year-old to reach the round of 16 in 2019. These days she’s a card-carrying member of the Top 10, a French Open runner-up and a threat to become the next teenager to win a Slam.
Gauff has already accomplished so much in her career, but she continues to blossom as a formidable threat to win every event she plays.
Call him Carlitos. Call him a freak of nature. Just don’t call him late for his first major title. That bell has already rung – Carlos Alcaraz became the youngest Grand Slam champion since Rafael Nadal in 2005 at the US Open in Flushing Meadows last year; soon after he became the youngest World No.1 in ATP history.
This week, in his third BNP Paribas Open appearance, the Spaniard is angling to improve upon his stunning semifinal run in 2022. He fell to Rafael Nadal last year in an epic clash, but not before he stunned fans with his incredible physicality and swagger, making them ask: is this phenom really still a teenager?
Fans are asking the same thing about Holger Rune. The Danish teen, who will turn 20 in April, has rocked into the Top 10 in the last 52 weeks. When we last saw Rune at the BNP Paribas Open he was ranked 86 and celebrating his first main draw win. This year the World No.8 is a serious title contender. Remember the name, remember the game.
Emma Raducanu was just 18 when she shocked the tennis world by winning the US Open in 2021, all the way from qualifying. This week in the Coachella Valley she looks to expand her empire by making another stunning title run. The British star notched her biggest victory by ranking since the US Open on Saturday, taking out 20th-seeded Magda Linette.
She’ll next try her hand against Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil in the third round on Monday.
Speaking of Brits who’ve got game, look no further than Jack Draper, a southpaw with a menacing power strokes and a wicked lefty serve that tends to leave his opponents befuddled. Draper has been tabbed by many as the future of British men’s tennis, and he’ll enjoy taking a shot at one of his country’s biggest sporting legends on Monday.
Bring an extra tub of popcorn for Draper’s clash with three-time major champion Andy Murray in the third round.
Italy’s Jannik Sinner has caught the eye of tennis aficionados ever since he stormed into the French Open Quarterfinals in 2020 on his main draw debut – as an 18-year-old, no less! Since then the Italian has continued to impress with his steady development. He possesses wicked power off of both wings and an incredible shotmaking panache.
You just have to say the word Iga around tennis fans, and everybody immediately shoots you a knowing glance. They also flash a smile, because to know Iga Swiatek, and her seemingly limitless game, is to know the future of women’s tennis.
The Polish juggernaut doesn’t just win – she dominates. And she does so with inspiring athleticism and a charm that makes the whole package a sight worth seeing.
As the defending champion, Swiatek is the heavy favorite to win the BNP Paribas Open women’s singles title this year, and all the other young guns on this list are currently aspiring to her heights. She’s the queen of the young guns, and the perfect player to wrap this piece…