NEW YORK — While all eyes have been on Novak Djokovic and his quest for the Calendar Slam, three teens have been creating their own storylines at this year’s US Open.
It has been an impressive stretch — Carlos Alcaraz, 18, became the youngest man to beat a top-three player at the US Open (Stefanos Tsitsipas); Leylah Fernandez, who turns 19 on Sunday, beat defending US Open champion Naomi Osaka; and Emma Raducanu reached the round of 16 for the second consecutive Grand Slam.
And all three are pushing each other, as Raducanu said to the media following her dominating third-round victory against Sara Sorribes Tormo.
“To have so many young players coming through is just really great for the game, because it just shows how strong this next generation is,” she said. “I wanted to join them in the second week as well, so that was an extra bit of motivation.”
Raducanu on Monday will face Shelby Rogers, who upset world No. 1 Ash Barty. Alcaraz plays qualifier Peter Gojowczyk and Fernandez takes on 2016 US Open champion Angelique Kerber.
Here’s everything you need to know about the teenagers who are taking New York by storm ahead of their next matches:
Projected ranking after third-round win: 50
Tennis idol: Rafael Nadal. “He has always been my idol and is still my idol.”
Moment he knew he made it: Playing Nadal on his 18th birthday at the Madrid Open in May. “It’s amazing to spend my birthday playing against Rafa, learning from him, playing in Madrid. It could [be] better if I could win, but I really enjoy[ed it]. I really learned from him, and I think this match made me grow up as a player. I’m really happy to spend my birthday like this.”
Best piece of advice he has received: From former Spanish player, Juan Carlos Ferrero, who is Alcaraz’s coach, on going for the offensive and controlling points. “Many players in those important points get tight: They do not want to make an error, so they are waiting for their opponent to commit one. Personally, I like to go for it, I feel that is the right way — at least the point ended on my terms and I think that the opponent will maybe feel a bit of fear seeing you going for it and putting him under pressure. Juan Carlos tells me that every day, to be aggressive in the key moments.” — Alcaraz said to Tennismajors.com.
Hobbies outside of tennis: Golf. “When I have time and I don’t have practice, I love playing golf. I’m so bad but I really like playing.”
Instagram following: 187,000
Age: 19 (Sept. 5 is her 19th birthday)
Projected ranking after third-round win: 52
Tennis idol: Justine Henin. “A coach once compared my game to hers, so I looked her up and I fell in love with her game and how she is, and she’s always been my role model through YouTube.”
Moment she knew she made it: Talking to Venus Williams. “It was really scary for me the first time I talked to Venus. [Venus and Serena] are multiple Grand Slam champions, legends. I’ve looked up to them and have been watching them for so long, since I started playing tennis, my whole life basically, and just holding up a conversation with them was very nerve-wracking for me. I think it’s worse than a tennis match. But she’s super kind, she’s very supportive. It was almost as if she understood my struggle. It was so cool talking to her and now when we do cross paths, we say hi to each other.”
Best piece of advice she has received: From her parents. Her father, Jorge, who is Ecuadorian, was a soccer player and coached Fernandez growing up, and her mother, who is Filipino, wanted her to play tennis. “With the help of my dad, him learning with me and also my mom, they were all there and just encouraged me and told me that if I want to stop playing tennis, I can. He just wants me to improve, keep correcting, keep competing. He said that’s going to happen a lot, that he’s going to put me in uncomfortable positions during practice and it’s up to me to fight through it and find solutions. When I said I wanted to be professional, that’s the place I wanted to go. That’s why he pushes me a little bit more every day, every year,” Fernandez told the CBC.
Hobbies outside of tennis: Watching movies with her family. “I love comedy and I love action movies. And I really like some ’80s classic movies, ‘Sixteen Candles,’ ‘Can’t Buy Me Love,’ and of course, there’s also ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.'”
Instagram following: 31,300
Projected ranking after third-round win: 100
Country: Great Britain
Tennis idol: Simona Halep and Li Na. “I want to be athletic like Halep. I feel like I’ve got quite a good base right now but a lot to improve on and also Li Na — I’m a massive fan of her game. She’s got such powerful strokes. She went for everything and also she was very athletic in a more aggressive way. I loved her mentality, she never complained. That’s something I aspire to be like.”
Moment she knew she made it: Practicing with Garbine Muguruza. “I was so chuffed just to be able to hit with her and see how intense she was. It definitely made something click in my head. ‘Wow, this is the level I need to be training at. I need to be this intense if I want to achieve anything remotely near to what she has.’ I think that definitely was a small turning point in my head. I even got the opportunity to hit with her again. That made me feel really good that I produced in the first hit.”
Best piece of advice she has received: From her parents. Her father, who is Romanian, and her mother, who is Chinese, instilled discipline in Raducanu. “On my mum, she’s always instilled a lot of discipline and respect for other people into me,” Raducanu said. “I think having parents like I do, they always push me. They have high expectations. I’ve always tried to live up to that. And I hope I did them proud this week. … I think it’s definitely helped me, the mentality that both of them bring. They both come from very hard-working countries.”
Hobbies outside of tennis: Go-karting and motocross. “I started my very short go-karting career in a bus garage in Streatham before going to a proper track,” she told the Sunday Times. “From the age of nine, I started motocross in a forest somewhere for a year. This was all alongside tennis.”
Instagram following: 424,000
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