"You make me, Feel like I'm livin' a teenage dream" were lyrics sung by Katy Perry from her song "Teenage Dream". Friday was all about the teens after wins for Carlos Alcaraz and Leylah Fernandez over Stefanos Tsitsipas and Naomi Osaka respectively. For these two, they were really "livin' a teenage dream".
At only 18 years young, both players are making their waves across the sport already and have not succumbed to the hype. Both players have steadily worked their way up the rankings and are now in positions to put themselves in an excellent spot for not only the end of the season but heading into 2022 as well.
Alcaraz With All The Right Answers
The Spaniard had already made waves leading into 2021 after grabbing two Challenger titles to end his 2020 season in Barcelona and Alicante. Sitting at 144 in the rankings, he qualified for the Australian Open before falling to Mikael Ymer in the second round.
His clay season fared much better with a Challenger title, a run to the French Open third round, and a title in Umag. Any questions about whether his game would transfer over to the hard court were duly answered at the Winston-Salem Open where he ran into Ymer once again.
After wins over Cameron Norrie and Arthur Rinderknech, the hypothetical "wagon" of fans of the Spaniard grew larger and larger. With Tsitsipas coming in round three, this would be the biggest ask of the 18-year-old's career to date to pull off the victory.
For the first set and a half, you sensed no fear in him. Youngsters play one of two ways against top players: fearless or nervous. Alcaraz was the former, showing no fear before Tsitsipas came back to take the second set.
Down 2-5 in the third and looking like he would go down two sets to one, he clawed back for 5-5 and took the set in a tiebreak.
In his post-match press conference, the Murcia native said he was at his limit physically which is why the trainer came out. Tsitsipas took his famous or infamous, however you want to put it, toilet break (we won't get into any more of that here) and zoomed through set four 6-0.
Other than one break point look for the Greek, it was a dominant set for servers in set five. It looked that way until the tiebreak where the French Open finalist cracked. With three match points in hand, Tsitsipas won both points on the Spaniard's serve for the opportunity to level it at 6-6. However, his belief never wavered, and it paid off with the biggest win of his young career. Peter Gojowczyk is next up, and we'll see if he's ready for more spotlight on him.
Fernandez "Leys" Down The Hammer
Over the last two seasons, Mexico became a happy hunting ground for Fernandez. A finalist in Acapulco last year, followed by her first title in Monterrey. After that though, wins were hard to come by, especially after her first title; a dismal 5-11 in tour-level matches since then.
After a win over Ana Konjuh and a tough battle against upset titan Kaia Kanepi, confidence for Fernandez had to be at its highest point for a long time.
At the end of her match against Osaka, the Canadian was asked when did she believe she could win this match, and she said before the match started. As often as we see the physical traits of tennis, the mental side of it isn't talked about as often.
Believing that you can win even before the first ball is struck puts you in a positive mindset that you have the chance to win because if you think otherwise, you're already playing from behind. Throughout the first set, viewers at home sensed that belief because the 18-year-old was going toe-to-toe with the third seed.
After dropping the opener 5-7, it seemed deja vu struck when the Canadian was broken in the 11th game once again to give Osaka the opportunity to serve for the match. If you can believe you can win before the match, that belief should still be there when you're a set and four points away from being defeated.
The flame never died as Fernandez broke back and took the tiebreak as Osaka began to unravel to start set three. A racquet abuse point penalty was given as the four-time major winner was lucky to avoid a 0-3 hole. With the lead for the first time all match, the Canadian had ice in her veins as she did not face a single break point en route to victory over the defending champion. Fernandez now faces Angelique Kerber, another player with her own resurgence, for a spot in the quarterfinals.
Emma's Enormous Rise
We'd be hard-pressed of knowing a tennis follower who had not heard of Emma Raducanu after her inspirational run at Wimbledon this year. The wildcard made her Grand Slam debut this year and stormed her way through the first three rounds before retiring against Alja Tomljanovic.
She reached her first WTA final in Chicago, losing to Clara Tauson, another teen sensation, and now finds herself in the third round of the US Open. With Sara Sorribes Tormo as her opponent, it won't be easy with the Spaniard being one of the trickiest opponents to play.
Win or lose, Raducanu is here to stay. Over the years, a lot of expectations have been unnecessarily placed on the rising stars and teenagers of tennis. With comparisons to all-time greats coming left and right, you would find it hard to believe that these players have their own identities.
As time has progressed, the media has gotten smarter on tampering with expectations. Let's be honest, we'll most likely never have the likes of the Big Three or the Williams Sisters again. Let the players live their lives and work their way towards glory because the future is now.