For men’s tennis, it’s an age old question. For the women it’s a little bit different but, given the number of recent first-time winners, still just as difficult to answer.
Tennismash staff writers Bede Briscomb, Piers Newbery and Matt Trollope predict which men and women will be the next new Grand Slam champions, and where and when it will happen.
Briscomb: Madison Keys, US Open 2019
Keys has been building for a hot minute.
Since 2015, the American has reached the final 16 of the 15 Grand Slams she’s competed in 73% of the time. Moreover, her last five Grand Slam runs, starting with the 2017 US Open, read as follows: RU, QF, R32, SF.
That’s pretty good.
Prettay, prettay, prettay good.
Not only is Keys awesome at the US Open (she’s made the fourth round or better for four straight years), it’s a major that’s had three new Grand Slam champs crowned over the last four years.
Young players break out at Flushing Meadows, and Madison Keys has got next.
Newbery: Elina Svitolina, Roland Garros 2019
The time has come.
A year that had appeared to be petering out instead came to a roaring, fist-pumping end as Svitolina landed the biggest title of her career at the WTA Finals.
Successive wins over five of the best players in the world should prove the perfect launchpad for an assault on a first major title in 2019.
Admittedly, with just two Grand Slam quarterfinals to her name, there is plenty of new ground to be broken. At the same time, she has been a top-five fixture for much of the last two years and has an impressive record against most of her leading rivals.
Back-to-back titles in Rome, beating Simona Halep in the final each time, suggest the Ukrainian is well capable of dethroning the world No.1 at Roland Garros.
Trollope: Elina Svitolina, Roland Garros 2019
Like Alexander Zverev on the men’s side, Svitolina is a “logical” choice. She’s won a ton of big titles, beaten practically every star on tour and has been entrenched in the top 10 for a while now. And like Zverev, her repeated flops at Grand Slam events are largely mental, rather than physical or technical. She’s too good a player not to succeed at the majors, and eventually her results will reflect that.
The Ukrainian has historically thrived on clay – twice a Rome champion, twice a Roland Garros quarterfinalist – which is why I believe Paris will be the site of her breakthrough. She’s a little older than Zverev (at age 24) which means she has the experience necessary to succeed at the highest level. The women’s game is as open and even as ever, with eight different Grand Slam champions in the past two years.
The landscape shows no sign of changing any time soon, given the impressive depth on the WTA tour. Thus, Svitolina’s time appears to be drawing closer.
If she can positively channel the criticism she frequently receives about her worthiness as a contender – as she did recently at the WTA Finals – then she’ll be even tougher to beat.
Briscomb: Dominic Thiem, Roland Garros 2020
It’s not a sexy pick.
Well, Dominic Thiem is a very handsome man, but it doesn’t take a lot of guts to say he’ll win a French Open. Over the last three years, Thiem has reached two semifinals and one final at Roland Garros, losing to Nadal twice and Djokovic once.
The Austrian is a behemoth on clay. Since 2014, he has won eight titles and reached six finals on the surface. At 25 years young, it’s really just a matter of waiting until Nadal retires. And judging by Rafa’s recent injury history, that seems imminent.
Newbery: Alexander Zverev, US Open 2019
Tempting though it is to go for clay-court machine Dominic Thiem sometime in the post-Nadal era, I’m backing one of the younger guns to beat him to a major title.
Injury now strikes down the trophy-laden over-30s on a regular basis, making Grand Slam draws slightly less daunting, while the younger generation grows stronger every week.
It hasn’t exactly escaped anyone’s notice, including his own, that Zverev has under-achieved at the Slams so far – but it’s also widely agreed that it is only a matter of time.
The combination of winning a landmark ATP Finals title, working with Ivan Lendl, a clutch of titles to his name on North American hardcourts and the fact that several of the older generation tend to arrive in New York feeling the effects of a long season, mean Flushing Meadows is the place for Zverev to break through.
Trollope: Alexander Zverev, Australian Open 2020
I’m still not convinced we’re going to see a new Grand Slam champion in 2019. Djokovic in Melbourne, Nadal in Paris, Federer or Djokovic at Wimbledon … health pending for the Big Three, these victories already seem somewhat pre-ordained.
Flushing Meadows is perhaps the most open next year, but that could easily be where an Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Marin Cilic, Kei Nishikori or Kevin Anderson bobs up – if one of the Big Three doesn’t scoop that as well. So for a Grand Slam breakthrough, I’m picking Alex Zverev at AO2020 – I’m not convinced he feels that comfortable at Flushing Meadows anyway.
There’s no reason the German can’t win a major title. He’s beaten pretty much all the big names on multiple occasions. And he’s pushed Rafa to the brink more than once. There were question marks around his ability to play five-set tennis, but he answered those resoundingly with three consecutive five-set wins at Roland Garros in 2018.
His shortcomings so far at the majors have been mental. But there has got to come a point where the talent – booming serve, relentless groundstrokes and impressive movement – coupled with a great coaching/team set-up and belief against the best translate to success on the grandest stages of all.
The Australian Open has frequently been the site of male breakthroughs, so why not Zverev there in 2020?
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