Youth is being served for U.S. women at Citi Open

All three American women in quarters are 23 years old or younger

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At one end of the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center on Wednesday night, American Coco Vandeweghe served Aravane Rezai of France into submission. At the other, countrywoman Vania King experienced similar success. Their victories give the United States three quarterfinalists entering Thursday’s action at the Citi Open.

Vandeweghe won handily (6-2, 6-2) and King survived a second set tiebreak (6-2, 7-5) to join fellow American Sloane Stephens, who upended Michelle Larcher de Brito in straight sets Tuesday, in the quarters. All three women are 23 years old or younger.

With Serena and Venus Williams representing the United States at the 2012 London Olympics this week, Wednesday night’s victories could be indicative of a changing of the guard. The Williams sisters have long been the most well-known faces of women’s tennis in the country, but this trio of up-and-coming stars proved that the rest of the U.S. is certainly not devoid of talent.

“I think the media groups tennis in the United States as if you’re not top 10 or you’re not number one, if you haven’t had multiple Grand Slams, then you’re not a good player, which I think is really unfair to tennis players,” King said after her victory. “If you look at other countries, it’s no small feat to be top 100, to be the best 100 in the world.”

King holds the No. 55 spot in the Women’s Tennis Association’s most recent world rankings, and she lived up to it against Irina Falconi. After missing a series of easy shots in the early going, King grew more confident in the second set and started taking more chances. The risk paid off, but only barely, as it took a tiebreaker to ultimately decide the match.

Vandeweghe used a similar tactic in her match on the opposite side of the complex.

“There were a couple long rallies where I felt after those rallies she kind of deflated a bit … [and] I think my serve definitely shook her confidence,” the 20-year-old from Southern California explained. “That definitely raised my game to see that in an opponent.”

With their respective wins, King and Vandeweghe will face one another in the quarterfinals for the first time. King, 23, said she only expects one thing: a fast match.

“Obviously she’s coming off of good confidence,” King said of her next opponent. “We don’t play very similar, so I think it’s just going to be about my game matching up to hers.”

While the third American, Stephens, 19, lost her doubles match Wednesday in straight sets, all three represent the bright future of women’s tennis in the U.S. This year’s Citi Open marks the first year in which the men and women have competed simultaneously at Rock Creek Park, and the popularity of younger players continues to be a huge draw. 

It helps, of course, that they have also experienced recent success. Stephens, who will face Eugenie Bouchard of Canada, has reached the third round in each of her last two Grand Slams and Vandeweghe made it all the way to the final at the Stanford Classic earlier this month. King won two doubles Grand Slams in 2010.

“The year’s been awesome,” Stephens said earlier this week. “I’ve played some really good tennis, my ranking’s gone up, I’ve just been really happy and I’ve really enjoyed myself on court.”

The Williams sisters are still the biggest names in American women’s tennis. But King, Stephens and Vandeweghe are also making waves and giving D.C. fans a glimpse at the future.

“I think it’s great that we’re all in the quarters,” Vandeweghe said. “It’s great to have all these Americans inside the top 100. With all the talk about no good Americans coming up, we’ve got a lot of young girls and I think we’re all doing really well.”

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