The disappearance of the top teenage tennis player

If, like me, you grew up watching tennis in the late-1970s and early-1980s, you’d remember numerous teenage players at the top of the women’s game. At Grand Slam tournaments during those years, it was perfectly common for around one third of the seeds in the Ladies’ singles to be teenagers. However, at this year’s Australian Open there is one seed yet to celebrate her 20th birthday, the maximum there has been at each of the last seven editions of the year’s first Grand Slam.

Back in 1981, five of the 14 seeded players in the Australian Open draw were teenagers  with 19-year-olds Tracy Austin, Hana Mandlikova and Pam Shriver accompanied by Andrea Jaeger (16) and Bettina Bunge (18). Four of those players were amongst the top six seeds at that tournament and it was Shriver who got the furthest, reaching the semi-finals. Austin had already won the US open twice (aged 16 and 18) while Mandlikova had won the previous year’s tournament in Melbourne. Shriver had been in the final of the 1978 US Open aged 16.

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