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The Top 5: Teenage Moments at the Majors
Carlos Alcaraz is the latest player to show that youth can be served at the Slams.
Published Sep 13, 2022
The Break: Tracy Austin's son wins a match at the US Open
The younger set has been making its mark at the Grand Slam tournaments since the earliest days of the sport—a trend that isn’t likely to end anytime soon. Just look at current women’s No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who won her first Grand Slam title in 2020 at Roland Garros at age 19.
And then there are the feats Carlos Alcaraz just pulled off in New York: The 19-year-old from Spain won his first major and, in the process, became the youngest-ever No. 1 in the men’s game.
Those two have joined the ranks of some former teenagers that would go on to carve out Hall of Fame-worthy careers. Here’s a look at five of them.
1. Tracy’s Teenage Dreams
California kid Tracy Austin shook up the tennis world right from the start of her professional career, winning her first title at 14 in 1977. Two years later, she made an even bigger move by picking up her first major singles title at the US Open, beating Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert in her last two matches. In 1981, at 18, she was back in the winner’s circle in the Big Apple, topping Navratilova for the championship in a third-set tiebreak.
2. Becker Blasts Through Wimbledon
Back in 1985, the sport’s most prestigious event served as a launching pad for the player whose rocket serve would take him to new heights. Seventeen-year-old Boris Becker of Germany came into the tournament with momentum on his side, having won his first title on grass at Queen’s Club. Serving and volleying in a style never seen before, the unseeded Becker captured Wimbledon and became the youngest-ever men’s major champion to that point.
3. Hingis’ Triple Play
The Swiss Miss barely could, well, miss, in 1997. At an age where most youngsters are digging into the junior scene, Martina Hingis was set for one of the best professional seasons in the modern game. She recorded her first Grand Slam singles victory at the Australian Open at 16, made the final of the French Open, then tacked on titles at Wimbledon and the US Open.
4. The Serena Show Begins
Two years after her older sister Venus Williams announced herself as a professional to watch with her run to the 1997 US Open final, Serena Williams went one better. The then-17-year-old closed out the millennium with her first Grand Slam title on the singles side, beating Hingis in the final to exact a bit of revenge for her big sister’s loss in the semis.
5. Borg, Wilander, Chang and Nadal: The French Connection
Roland Garros has been the site for several historic performances by the younger set on the men’s side. Six-time champion Bjorn Borg won his first crown there at 18 in 1974. The Swede’s countryman, Mats Wilander, eclipsed that with his 1982 title, a year after claiming the junior crown, becoming the youngest man to pick up a major at 17. His record was beaten by Boris Becker at Wimbledon—who then saw his mark fall to Michael Chang, another 17-year-old champ in 1989 at Roland Garros. Rafael Nadal, Borg’s successor as the all-time men’s titleholder in Paris, was practically an elder statesman when he first triumphed at the French Open in 2005 at 19.