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Two American women top the latest Women's Tennis Association rankings

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

When Serena Williams played her last match this year at the U.S. Open, it seemed to signal the end of an era for American tennis. But then the newest WTA rankings came out yesterday.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff are now ranked No. 3 and 4 in the world, respectively. It's the first time two Americans have made the top four in the women's pro tour since Serena Williams and her sister Venus in 2010.

LIZ CLARKE: You know, it is a truth. Sports renews. Tennis renews.

SUMMERS: Liz Clarke covers sports for The Washington Post. And she says both young women stand out but for different reasons. Clarke says the narrative surrounding Pegula, who is 28 now, is one of determination.

CLARKE: It's not like she's at the dawn of a fascinating career, but it's a beautiful narrative for those of us who love those who stick at it, who stay with it. You know, she has not given up. It's a career of tenacity, staying with it. She's playing the best, the smartest she ever has.

SUMMERS: While Coco Gauff, who is just 18 years old, stands out for her grace, power and passion on and off the court.

CLARKE: Of course, every player at that level cares, but you just feel her caring so deeply about her performance and what she expects of herself, what she demands of herself. She is also one of the strongest, most forceful but mature young women I've ever heard, certainly among athletes, when they choose to speak about social justice matters.

CHANG: Liz Clarke says that Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff are formidable forces on clay, grass and hard courts. And she also notes they happen to be doubles partners.

CLARKE: They're both ranked top five in the world in doubles. This means they're both very serious about improving their net play, like, diversifying their game.

SUMMERS: On Sunday, Pegula just won her first big-time WTA tournament in Mexico. Gauff's ranking, on the other hand, has many thinking back to when they saw another American teen sensation crack the top of the rankings, one named Serena Williams.

(SOUNDBITE OF PHARELL SONG, "NUMBER ONE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.