Heading into the Australian Open, one of the most pressing questions was “who is the best 16-year-old in women’s tennis right now?” with two, maybe three possible answers. On Wednesday, the whole trio played their matches against high seeds on Rod Laver Arena, even if one wasn’t originally scheduled to appear there.
Mirra Andreeva beat  Ons Jabeur 6-0 6-2
Mirra Andreeva is the most professionally established of the three, already finding herself inside the top 50 having made the second week at Wimbledon. The 16-year-old was the Australian Open girls’ singles runner-up last year and who could have guessed that a year later she would already be considered one of the biggest dark horses at the pro event. We’ve arrived at a point where the upset over a top-10 player was almost to be expected.
It has to be said that Ons Jabeur had a bit of a shocker too, but Andreeva got onto her early with aggressive 2nd serve returns and was feeling the ball incredibly well in the opening set. The Tunisian would drag her into a fast-paced rally only for her opponent to still time the backhand down-the-line perfectly or produce another bit of spectacular shotmaking. The whole affair didn’t even last an hour as Andreeva refused to let Jabeur back into the match, not even for a moment.
Alina Korneeva lost to  Beatriz Haddad Maia 1-6 2-6
Alina Korneeva won that aforementioned Australian Open girls’ singles title last year in perhaps the best junior Slam final in history, which will have its legacy especially cemented if the two 16-year-olds go on to achieve great things in pro tennis as well. Korneeva had to begin her Melbourne run from the qualifying and it was an eventful path with two match points saved against Ma Yexin in the second round. Her opening win of the main draw was just pure class though as she powered through the variety of Sara Sorribes Tormo, someone who tends to be an extremely tough matchup for inexperienced players.
Korneeva, whose match against Beatriz Haddad Maia was moved to Rod Laver Arena due to play starting three hours late on the outside courts, didn’t repeat that same level of performance in her second round though. The Russian made 36 unforced errors in just 15 games and wasn’t able to sustain her aggression against the ultra-solid display of her opponent. It certainly didn’t seem like that was going to be the case at first when she held to level the match at 1-all and fired an insane backhand winner down-the-line on the very next point.
Brenda Fruhvirtova lost to  Aryna Sabalenka 3-6 2-6
Brenda Fruhivrtova is the one of the trio who is probably the least prepared for the highest echelon of women’s tennis for now, which comes down to a few things. The Czech has spent the last couple of years absolutely dominating the ITF circuit with 15 titles but she still needs to get a bit more comfortable dictating play, despite a smooth backhand technique. Maybe someone who can help with that is her new coach Nicolas Massu, the former World No. 9 and Athens Olympics gold medalist.
The 16-year-old qualified for the Australian Open like Korneeva and also saved a match point along the way (against Talia Gibson). Despite her age, this is already the third time she’s managed to make it through Slam qualifying and she was able to pick up the first main draw win over Ana Bogdan. Defending champion and second seed Aryna Sabalenka was just too much for her at this stage though with the overwhelming weight of shot and she only upped her pace as the match went on.
Andreeva is the only 16-year-old still standing in the event and she will now be a sizeable favorite against fellow former junior World No. 1 Diane Parry. If she makes it through, she might face Barbora Krejcikova in the fourth round, a player she has recently taken out 6-2 6-2 (Beijing). The opportunity is there and this run has already established Andreeva as clearly the best player born in 2007 at the moment. The other two aren’t far behind though and with all of them playing a much more consistent schedule this year with the WTA Age Eligibility Rule loosening up for them once they turn 17, they’ll all be a joy to follow this year.
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