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Taking A Look At The Eight Most Promising Young Prospects In Tennis

Since 2005, the Big Four have dominated the tennis world, winning 49 of the 54 Grand Slams played. This level of dominance is unprecedented, but what is even more impressive is how long they’ve been able to keep it up. Even as all four members are into their 30s (Federer is 37!), they are still the players to beat on tour.

No one has been able to truly break through their impenetrable guard at tennis’ most prestigious events, but it’s looking like the Next Gen might finally reach a breakthrough in the next couple of years. That being said, let’s take a look at the players who are most likely to inherit the tennis crown.

8. Karen Khachanov

Accomplishments & Trophies

Khachanov, at 22 years of age, is ranked 25th in the world according to the live rankings. While he has only won two titles – Chengdu and Marseille – his accomplishments reach far beyond his trophies.

The Russian has notched some impressive wins in his career, defeating Berdych and Isner en route to the 2017 French Open fourth round. He has reached the fourth round of a major four times in his career, an impressive feat for a youngster, especially in today’s tour.

Taking a look at his performance in Masters events, Khachanov had his breakthrough in this year’s Rogers Cup, reaching the semifinals where he would ultimately lose to Rafael Nadal. In doubles, he teamed up with Rublev to reach the Miami Open final, ultimately losing in a third set tiebreaker to the Bryan Brothers.

Khachanov has made some deep runs in major tournaments, and it looks like he’s finally gaining some momentum and consistency; he’ll only get better as time passes.

His Game

At 6’ 6”, Khachanov is quite a big server. He has some heavy groundstrokes to go along with his booming serve, and at his height, he’s a surprisingly agile mover. Combining his excellent footwork with his height makes for a lethal player.

His serve is his best weapon; he has plenty of power, and he can hit his spots. Against Rafa in the US Open this year, the Russian served up 22 aces. Free points on serve make it that much easier to hold, especially crucial against top players. However, Khachanov’s serve is still inconsistent; he lacks the precision of a veteran, and he is prone to crumbling under pressure.

Karen’s groundstrokes, as with his serve, are packed with power. The Russian can generate great spin and speed on both his forehand and backhand side, and we saw how it troubled Nadal, Khachanov swinging away and playing some clever tennis to challenge the best player in the world.

Khachanov has an explosive game; he is very powerful, and he can use his serve to win a lot of free points. If he can improve his net play and increase the variety in his game, there’s no doubt he’ll be a world-class talent.

Looking To The Future

Khachanov has a game suited for the future of tennis. Unlike the other Next Gen stars, it is not too flashy; rather, Khachanov can grind you down from the baseline and attack on short balls. The Russian has already demonstrated great mental strength, especially in Grand Slam tournaments, but if he wants to challenge for the top titles on tour, he’ll need to become a more consistent player.

Khachanov has everything it takes to become a top ten player, and while he might never win a major, I certainly think we’ll see him make some deep runs on the biggest stages.

7. Hyeon Chung

Accomplishments & Trophies

Ranked 23rd in the world, Hyeon Chung is Asia’s most promising tennis talent. While the Korean has yet to win a true ATP title, he’s posted some impressive performances. Chung first came under the spotlight after his win in the ATP Next Gen Finals, defeating his fellow youngsters en route to the tournament’s first ever trophy.

But even more impressive was the start to his 2018 season. A miraculous run at the Australian Open saw him defeat both of the Zverev brothers and Novak Djokovic, carrying him to the semifinals where he was forced to retire to Roger Federer. Chung would make the quarterfinals of Indian Wells (losing to Roger again), but a string of injuries haven’t allowed him to return to the heights of Melbourne.

His Game

Many have likened Chung’s game to that of Djokovic, citing the obvious similarities in form, flexibility, and a defensive mentality. Chung is a defensive baseliner, but he knows how to attack when given the opportunity. He is solid off both wings, and it seems like he has mental strength – something that many of the Next Gen talents lack.

Chung’s serve is not a true weapon on its own, but it isn’t a weakness either; most of the time, his serve will put him in an attacking or neutral position to start the point. This is where Chung’s true talents shine. His forehand and backhand are both incredibly consistent, and his incredibly short backswing makes it hard for opponents to read his shots.

Chung is a great mover on the court, and he has displayed some incredible flexibility reminiscent of Djokovic himself. The Korean’s game is not nearly as refined as Djokovic’s, but as a raw talent at just 22 years of age, he has plenty of time to grow and a great foundation to start from.

Looking To The Future

Chung is one of the players I believe could truly be a force on the tour. We’ve seen the success of baseliners with similar game styles – Djokovic, Murray, etc. If Chung can avoid injury and continue to flesh out his game, he could become an elite player; right now, he is looking like the best defender of his generation.

6. Borna Coric

Accomplishments & Trophies

At 21 years of age, Coric is currently ranked 18th in the world. The Croatian has already recorded 10 wins against top ten players, and he has won two ATP titles – including this year’s Halle Open against Roger Federer.

Coric, like many other youngsters, has yet to break through in a major, but the talent is there, and with the recent form he’s been having, it’s only a matter of time.

His Game

Borna is one of the more “boring” youngsters on tour; he doesn’t have a true weapon. His serve, forehand, and backhand are all good but nothing special. In fact, Coric is often compared to Djokovic and Murray, but he simply doesn’t have the same weapons that the other top players possess.

Coric’s greatest strength is by far his patience. Many consider him to be a pusher/counterpuncher, meaning that he prefers to lay back and wait for mistakes rather than take the initiative themselves. He is very solid on the forehand and backhand side, and he very rarely makes the first mistake.

Coric isn’t the most exciting player to watch, but he is an incredibly solid player, and he’s shown that his game can get him past some great players.

Looking To The Future

While Coric is one of the more accomplished young players on tour, it doesn’t look like he has what it takes to win Grand Slams. His game is a bit bland, and until he gets a true weapon, it’s unlikely that he’ll be anything more than a top-10 player.

5. Alex de Minaur

Accomplishments & Trophies

The young Australian is currently ranked 38th in the world, and coming off the back of an impressive showing at the US Open, he has momentum heading into the late hard court swing. De Minaur has yet to win an ATP title, but he has reached two finals – one of which came at this year’s Citi Open.

The young Australian is beginning to make a breakthrough, and it’s only a matter of time before he wins his first ATP title.

His Game

Alex has a very unique playstyle. While many might think of him as a defender, particularly because of his similarities to Hewitt and his lightning-quick speed, he is more aggressive than it may seem. He loves to move his opponents around, and his forehand is great at creating angles. His backhand is perhaps his most glaring weakness, but it still acts well as a defensive shot.

De Minaur also has a great net game. Unlike many of the other young players, the Australian is capable of coming to net to close out points; this is an invaluable skill, particularly in today’s game, and it allows De Minaur the freedom to move around the entire court.

But the Australian’s main strength has to be his movement. Simply put, the kid can run. He is arguably the fastest player on tour, and he can track down balls that seem out of reach. This allows him to stay in a lot of points and rallies; even at the pro level, getting one more ball back can often be the difference between winning and losing the match.

De Minaur is one of the most exciting talents to watch. His tennis IQ is next to none, and he refuses to give up – fighting for each and every ball. His speed and defense combined with his attacking ability make him a particularly lethal player to come up against.

Looking To The Future

I believe De Minaur has what it takes to win a Grand Slam. He’s finally making a name for himself on the pro circuit, and he is an incredibly well-rounded and intelligent player. He certainly needs to improve his backhand and begin to dictate play more often, but he has all the talent in the world.

4. Felix Auger-Aliassime

Accomplishments & Trophies

As the youngest player on this list at 18 years old, Auger-Aliassime’s accolades are all the more impressive. The young Canadian has already won 3 Challengers, becoming the youngest player to defend a Challenger title after his triumph in Lyon earlier this year.

Felix is currently ranked 135th in the world, and while he hasn’t made any true progress in the bigger ATP events, he is becoming a consistent threat in Challenger tournaments, and he always puts up a fight when given the chance at the bigger events. It only takes one tournament to make a name for yourself, and it looks like Auger-Aliassime is ready to make the breakthrough.

His Game

Auger-Aliassime is an incredibly versatile player, especially at such a young age. He has the solid baseline game like so many other young players, but he isn’t afraid to back it up with aggressive tennis. The Canadian will push his opponent back, and his net game is already better than a lot of other players.

Felix is already 6’ 3”, and it’s likely that he’ll grow another couple of inches in the upcoming years. His serve is developing into a true weapon, and he has the groundstrokes to help him finish the point. Auger-Aliassime hits with a ton of power, and he prefers to keep points short, although he is certainly capable of holding his own in a longer rally.

But what impresses me most about the young Canadian teenager is his ability to handle the pressure, even in the spotlight. Felix, despite being so young and inexperienced, isn’t afraid to take risks. He is an incredibly smart player, and he knows his game and his limitations.

Looking To The Future

Felix’s future is perhaps the most uncertain of the Next Gen. He hasn’t made a true breakthrough yet, but he’s also the youngest player on this list by far. The Canadian has all the talent in the world, and his aggressive game makes him thrilling to watch. Felix impressed at the Rogers Cup and the US Open this year, and I think it’s only a matter of time before he makes a deep run into a Masters event.

Felix is arguably the Next Gen player with the most potential; what he’s achieving at just 18 years of age is incredible. We’ve seen flashes of brilliance from Auger-Aliassime, and it certainly looks like he has a bright future ahead.

3. Denis Shapovalov

Accomplishments & Trophies

Shapovalov hasn’t won an ATP title yet, but he has climbed up in the rankings – now ranked 34th in the world after reaching a career high of 23rd. The young Canadian impressed all with a spectacular win against Rafael Nadal in the Rogers Cup last year, and ever since, he’s become one of the most highly touted prospects on the tour.

El Shapo also reached the semifinals of the Madrid Open this year, but he has yet to make a deep run in the Grand Slams, albeit playing some phenomenal matches along the way.

His Game

Shapovalov is a fan favorite, and his electrifying playstyle has resonated with the audience, particularly with younger players. He is by far the most aggressive player in the Next Gen, and he leaves it all out there on the court.

Shapovalov, despite being only 6’ tall, has a great serve. His lefty spin allows him to abuse his opponents’ backhands, and he can generate a lot of power and pace on each serve. He can open up a ton of space on the court, and he’ll follow the ball in without hesitation.

Many point to Denis’ backhand as being his signature shot. Shapovalov is one of the few youngsters to hit a one-handed backhand, and it makes him that much more exciting to watch. He takes huge swings at the ball, capable of hitting topspin and flat strokes. His forehand also excels; he uses is to attack, and its sheer pace can push a lot of players back beyond the baseline.

The Canadian is also a good net player; he comes to net often and effectively, ending the point with a variety of different volleys. This gives him an added dimension that many other players lack.

Shapovalov has been likened to Federer – perhaps because of his one handed backhand – but I would argue that he is a completely different sort of player. His athleticism allows him to hit crazy shots from impossible positions, and he’s already shown that his high-risk, high-reward game can pay off, defeating Rafa Nadal in last year’s Rogers Cup.

Looking To The Future

Despite being one of the most exciting and showy young players to watch, I believe Shapovalov is a true talent. He’ll certainly be a top ten player within the next couple of years, and his aggressive game is perfect to counter the trend of baseliners that dominate today’s tour.

El Shapo needs to translate some of his raw talent into more controlled and consistent playing; he is often liable to losing to lower-ranked players simply because of the way he plays. If Shapovalov can continue on this path and become a little bit more controlled and restrained in the way he plays, he could very well become the Next Gen’s version of Federer.

2. Stefanos Tsitsipas

Accomplishments & Trophies

Tsitsipas made his breakthrough this year after reaching the finals of the Rogers Cup. Tsitsipas has yet to win an ATP tournament, but he has reached two finals – Barcelona and Canada – both of which he lost to Rafael Nadal.

The Greek youngster already has seven wins against top 10 players, an amazing record for a player of his age. Most of these wins came at this year’s Rogers Cup, when he defeated Thiem, Djokovic, Zverev, and Anderson en route to the finals.

Tsitsipas has shown that he has the ability to take down the best players in the game. Let’s take a look at what makes him so effective.

His Game

Similarly to Shapovalov, Tsitsipas plays a very aggressive style of tennis. The Greek showcased his entire arsenal of weapons during his Rogers Cup run, and it’s clear that he is an incredibly talented player.

According to the ATP’s serve rating, Tsitsipas has the 19th most effective serve on tour, good for second highest on this list (Karen Khachanov is first at 15th). This is not due to power but rather to placement; Tsitsipas is very precise and intent when he serves, and this allows him to drag his opponents in varying directions.

This same mentality is what separates him from a lot of the other young stars. While Tsitsipas is certainly capable of rattling off huge groundstrokes, he prefers to play a more contained style of tennis. Tsitsipas looks for angles rather than for pure power, and this is a sign of a very intelligent player.

Tsitsipas’ one handed backhand is a thing of beauty; it is incredibly consistent, and it affords him more flexibility and time on his shots. And of course, Stefanos isn’t afraid to rip one down the line when given the chance.

But Tsitsipas’ greatest weapon is not his intelligence or his consistency; rather, it is his determination to keep on fighting. This mental strength is what prompts him to sacrifice his body on his famed diving volleys, and it’s what kept him going in three-set thrillers against the top players in the game. Stefanos is a warrior, and he won’t go down without putting up a fight.

Looking To The Future

In my opinion, Tsitsipas has a more refined game than Shapovalov. They both have very similar playing style, but Tsitsipas is a bit more reserved; he might not get onto the highlight reel as often as his Canadian rival, but he isn’t prone to the same error-filled matches.

Tsitsipas has everything it takes to become tennis’ next star, and if he capitalizes on his potential, he’ll be a true sight to behold.

1. Alexander Zverev

Accomplishments & Trophies

Sascha Zverev is by far the most accomplished player of the Next Gen. Just 21 years old, Zverev has already taken the tour by storm. The German is ranked 5th in the world – having reached a career high of 3rd – and he already has 3 Masters 1000 titles to his name.

While Zverev has yet to perform at Grand Slam events, he is certainly making some progress, evidenced by his quarterfinal appearance at this year’s French Open. Zverev has already won more Masters titles than most anyone outside the Big Four, and he’ll look to do the same at the majors.

His Game

Standing tall at 6’ 6”, Zverev is a perfect athlete for the tennis court. The German’s height allows him to have a big serve without sacrificing too much of his mobility.

Despite his height, Zverev’s serve is not nearly the weapon it could be. He prefers to hit a flat serve, but it lacks the precision and the consistency that so many other great servers possess. Being so tall, this is the most obvious flaw in the German’s game; if he can develop  a great serve, his ground game will make him that much better.

Zverev is one of the best baseliners on tour. He hits a relatively flat ball from both wings, but he is great at creating angles, and he has plenty of power beyond his shots. His backhand is one of the best in the game, and he excels in long rallies. He is a more attacking player than the typical baseliner – looking to move his opponents around and control the point.

Zverev’s game is also shifting toward an all-court playstyle; more and more, the young German is coming up to net to finish points. Net play has been a weakness of Zverev’s in the past, but he’s making the effort to improve, and if he can develop into a great volleyer, he’ll be incredibly difficult to beat.

Looking To The Future

Many have touted Zverev as the future of tennis, and they have plenty of evidence to back up their claim. The German has already found incredible success, even against the top players, and this bodes well for his future. Zverev’s game is the most solid and complete of any of the Next Gen players, but it also leaves a lot of room for growth and improvement.

If Zverev can overcome his mental game and learn to cope with the pressure of Grand Slams, I have no doubt that he’ll be a multiple Grand Slam winner and a future world number one.

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