Smells like teen spirit: Sinner headlines the youth brigade

Six Roland-Garros main draw teenage debutants to look out for this fortnight in Paris

Jannik Sinner, Novak Djokovic, Roland Garros 2020 practice© Philippe Montigny/FFT
 - Alex Sharp

The established guard have a plethora of players snapping at their heels, ready to make a major move in Paris.

At Roland-Garros 2020 the men’s main draw is stacked with youngsters in the ‘Next Gen’ category, with a few special teenagers to keep an eye on.

Over to the women’s main draw and you find teenage prodigies such as Coco Gauff, Amanda Anisimova and Iga Swiatek, who all know how to navigate the Grand Slam gauntlet.

Here are six Roland-Garros main draw debutants ready to make their mark.

Jannik Sinner (ITA)

It’s been nothing short of a sharp rise for 19-year-old Jannik Sinner.

He’s a man in demand, having practised with world No.1 Novak Djokovic on Court Philippe-Chatrier on Friday night, before a hit with 12-time Roland-Garros champion Rafael Nadal on Saturday.

Last season Sinner claimed a couple of Challenger titles before wrapping up his 2019 as the ATP Next Gen Finals champion on home soil in Milan. 

Under the wing of renowned coach Riccardo Piatti, world No.74 Sinner has continued to turn heads in 2020 with his all-court prowess.

A second round showing at the Australian Open was followed by his first top-10 win against David Goffin. That 7-6(7), 7-5 triumph in Rotterdam back in February proves Goffin has a cruel opening draw, as they face off in the first round here in Paris on Sunday.

Recently at the Rome Masters the towering Italian also dispatched world No.6 Stefanos Tsitsipas. The big wins keep coming, so make sure you tune in.

Jannik Sinner, Roland Garros 2020 practice© Philippe Montigny/FFT

Marta Kostyuk (UKR)

“I think I obviously can do some damage here. A lot of players are afraid of me, they know I can play very well. It’s a great feeling to have to be honest.”

Talk about sending out a signal.

The 18-year-old Marta Kostyuk clearly fears nobody. That was exemplified at the US Open earlier this month as the Ukrainian hauled eventual champion Naomi Osaka into a decider.

Third round showings at the Australian Open (2018) and US Open (2020) illustrate the world No.119 relishes the major arena and she'll prove to be a tough opponent for an in-form Nao Hibino in the opening round in Paris. .

Marta Kostyuk, Roland Garros 2020, qualifications©Clément Mahoudeau / FFT

Leylah Fernandez (CAN)

Closing out the top 100, Canada’s Leylah Fernandez is very comfortable on the terre battue at Roland-Garros.

The 18-year-old cherishes memories of the the junior singles title on these very courts last June.

Since then, the left-hander’s fluent game has helped chalk up a memorable Billie Jean King Cup victory over Belinda Bencic, a WTA final spot in Acapulco and two wins over former US Open champion Sloane Stephens.

Another teenager far from intimidated by rankings, reputation or prestige over the net. She'll make her Roland-Garros main draw debut against Polish No.31 seed Magda Linette.

Leylah Fernandez ©Pauline Ballet / FFT

Harold Mayot (FRA)

If you like watching players with great panache, then home charge Harold Mayot is your man.

The 18-year-old became a junior Grand Slam champion in Melbourne back in January and plays very much with his heart on his sleeve. 

Rapid movement, solid strokes and a dogged determination, Mayot is going to pose plenty of questions in an intriguing match-up against the flamboyant Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the first round.

Harold Mayot, Roland Garros 2020, practice© Loïc Wacziak/FFT

Clara Tauson (DEN)

Denmark’s Clara Tauson is another protégé who flourished on the junior circuit.  

The 17-year-old, a former junior No.1, was the Australian Open 2019 champion and soon after burst onto the professional scene.

She’s already up to No.187 in the rankings with her aggressive, front-foot tennis. A clay-court title in Oeiras, Portugal post-lockdown set the tone for a ruthless run through the Roland-Garros qualifying draw.

Tauson takes on American No.21 seed and US Open semi-finalist Jennifer Brady in what will no doubt be an intriguing Paris opener.

Clara Tauson, Roland Garros 2020, qualifications©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

Tomas Machac (CZE)

Not only a Roland-Garros bow, this will be a Grand Slam debut for the Czech Tomas Machac

The 19-year-old put in a trio of accomplished displays to qualify for the main draw without dropping a set.

American Taylor Fritz, who recently impressed en route to the US Open third round, will be the overwhelming favourite in their first-round clash, but Machac has collected a selection of wins on the clay on the Challengers and is in the match groove after qualifying.

His match point celebration of a roar and clenched fist proved how much this means to the world No.252. Could we witness an early shock?

Tomas Machac, Roland Garros 2020, qualifying final round© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT