The ATP’s #NextGen are making their move up the rankings during the US Open Series and summer hard court season in North America in advance of the US Open, and look set to feature prominently in New York shortly.
This weekend the Roger’s Cup Masters 1000 semifinals in Toronto are set to feature 2 players 23 or younger, last weekend at the Citi Open all 4 semifinalists were 23 or younger, while Los Cabos had Cam Norrie (22) in the semifinals, and Norrie achieved the same feat in the Atlanta 250 that kicked off the US Open Series.
After years of frustration and concern regarding the inability of younger ATP players to make a big leap and compete for Slams and Masters titles, the ground seems to be shifting in the direction of the young guns. The so-called “lost generation” that featured the likes of Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic rising through the ranks has been competitive, but not elite against the Nadal’s and Federer’s of the world, but the ATP #NextGen looks to be rising rapidly and could soon overtake the current Grand Slam elite.
At a rain stricken Citi Open Alexander Zverev lifted a second straight DC title. By ranking Zverev is the best of the current ATP young guns. The 21 year old is the current world #3 despite having never reached a Grand Slam semifinal, much less a final. Zverev has been far more successful at the ATP and Masters level, after winning his first two Masters last season (Canada and Rome), he won Madrid this year and overall he has three titles this year with a strong likelihood of getting at least one more before year’s end. Zverev dropped just a set in Washington and then backed up that result with a quarterfinal in Toronto where he lost to a next gen compatriot he defeated in Washington, Stefanos Tsitsipas. Zverev’s sheer power and ability to keep opponents in uncomfortable positions has allowed him to rise quicker than the rest of his generation, and he remains the most likely of the group to win a Grand Slam.
19 year old Tsitsipas is still seeking his first ATP title. The young Greek is quickly becoming a sporting star in his country as this year he took on the ATP Tour full time and he’s blossomed quickly this summer. Tsitsipas has won a match in every tournament he’s played since Madrid and after upsetting David Goffin to reach the semis in DC, he’s now in the Rogers Cup Semis after three massive wins. First he defeated Dominic Thiem in straights, then he stared down Novak Djokovic for a three set win where he was clutch, and frankly the better player against the Wimbledon champion. Against Zverev in the semifinal he came back from a set down and saved a pair of match points to win in three sets with Kevin Anderson awaiting in the semis. While Tsitsipas hasn’t won a title he has 4 ATP semifinals this year and one final already.
Andrey Rublev had some injury concerns mid-season but he still looks set to have his best year on tour and the young Russian reached the semifinals in Washington. Rublev hasn’t been the most consistent but he won an ATP title last year so the potential is clearly there.Two other young Russians are also part of the same generation. Daniil Medvedev a lanky 22 year old reached the round of 16 in Canada, while Karen Khachanov is in the semifinals. Khachanov scored quality wins against John Isner and Pablo Carreno Busta and after an easy quarterfinal he’ll get his shot at Rafael Nadal. The 22 year old has already lifted two ATP titles and the Rogers Cup result is his strongest yet at the Masters level this season.
Though they weren’t able to make deep runs this year, Canadian men’s tennis still shows promise. Denis Shapovalov reached the round of 32 in Toronto and has two semifinals this year, with an ATP title likely to come soon. Felix Auger-Aliassime is also rising quickly. Young Felix still has limited success and experience at the tour and slam level but the pieces are all there for him to become a top 10 player in the next few seasons. The 18 year old upset ATP stalwart Lucas Pouille at the Rogers Cup. The Canadian #1 Raonic was upset by Frances Tiafoe in Toronto as well. The young American has built a solid season lifting his first ATP title and reaching two other quarterfinals this season.
At this year’s US Open expect to see some new names in the bracket during the later rounds, rather than just the usual standouts.