Youngest tennis grand slam winner. The Next Gen of male tennis players has long been predicted to replace Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Roger Federer.
Alex Zverez is no longer 21 and feels ready to win a slam, he said before his semi-final against Nadal on Friday. If not for a bad ankle roll on Friday, he might have won Roland Garros. Nadal is the ultimate competitor, but his persistent foot problem and late-night match against Djokovic gave his opponent additional recovery time.
If Zverez hadn’t slipped… The next Gen has come in women’s soccer. Saturday’s French Open final will feature 18-year-old Coco Gauff and world No. 1 Iga Swiatek. The 21-year-old Pole is a WTA Tour veteran and the defending champion is on a 34-game winning run, tied with Serena Williams and one short of Venus Williams’ 21st-century record.
Swiatek took over the WTA after Ash Barty retired after Wimbledon and the Australian Open. Martina Navratilova’s record of 74 straight wins isn’t out of reach for the number one, but she must first navigate the grass-court season. As a 2018 Wimbledon junior winner, she has great all-court credentials.
Saturday’s match will be Swiatek’s second Grand Slam final since she came onto the Tour in 2020, winning a French Open as the world No. 54. Gauff will be the youngest major finalist since 2004. At the Australian Open and Wimbledon, the American reached the fourth round. Swiatek is the overwhelming favorite, but Gauff has the all-around game, athleticism, and baseline hustle to cause her difficulties, something she hasn’t seen much of in Paris, despite losing a set against Zheng Qinwen.
If Gauff wins on Saturday, she will join a long list of women’s singles players to win a Grand Slam in their teens, but she is still older than Martina Hingis. The Swiss won the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open at 16 and added two more wins in Melbourne over the next two years to raise her score to five Grand Slams just after her 18th birthday, almost precisely the same age Gauff is now.
Hingis is the youngest Grand Slam singles champion since Lottie Dod won Wimbledon in 1887. She is also the youngest Grand Slam champion in history (singles and doubles) after winning the Wimbledon doubles title at 15 years and 9 months, beating Dod by a few days.
All three of the men who hold the record for the youngest age at which they won a championship were active in the 1980s. The overall record was set by Michael Chang, an American who won the French Open in 1989 at the age of 17 years and three months. The match that made him famous was his bizarre victory over Ivan Lendl, who was ranked number one in the world at the time; the youngster moon-balled served underarm and generally did everything possible to throw off the unflappable Lendl’s game. Chang won the match. Chang is closely followed by Boris Becker, who won Wimbledon when he was 17 years and seven months old, and Mats Wilander, who won Roland Garros when he was 17 years and nine months old. Mats Wilander won at Roland Garros in 1982. Chang won at Wimbledon in 1985.
Roger Federer won his first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2003 when he was 21 years old. Novak Djokovic won his first Grand Slam title at the 2008 Australian Open when he was 20 years old. Rafael Nadal won the first of his 13 French Open titles just a few days after his 19th birthday in 2005, becoming the first male player to win a slam as a teenager since Pete Sampras won the US Open in 1990.