While 2018 was devoid of a Grand Slam breakthrough for the next generation of male tennis stars, there were glimpses of greatness. Alex de Minaur, one member of this young crop of players, is confident about the group’s future.
“I think we’re sort of really just knocking on the door of these top guys,” the 19-year-old told Tennismash after winning the Newcombe Medal, Australian tennis’ most prestigious award.
“It’s crazy what sort of the new generation of players have been doing lately. Got [Alexander] Zverev taking out the O2, got [Stefanos] Tsitsipas at 15 in the world, [Karen] Khachanov winning in Paris, I mean all these guys, they’re playing some incredible tennis.
“I think once we can do that consistently, it would mean that we’re in a good spot.”
With nine men aged 22 or younger ranked inside the ATP top forty — and three inside the top 12 — the young Aussie is not wrong.
This year the ‘Next Gen’ proved the hype was real against big players on big stages.
Russia’s Khachanov stunned world No.1 Novak Djokovic to win his first Masters 1000 event in Paris; two weeks later Zverev also beat the No.1 to claim the ATP Finals crown.
Greece’s Tsitsipas took out four top 10 players to reach the final of the Rogers Cup. Borna Coric of Croatia reached the quarterfinals or better at three Masters events and beat Roger Federer twice in 2018. Korean Hyeon Chung shocked the tennis world when he made the semifinal of the Australian Open.
De Minaur has begun making waves as well. On top of winning the 2018 Newcombe Medal, he reached the third round of both Wimbledon and the US Open and ATP finals at the Sydney International and Washington DC.
He was also named ATP Newcomer of the Year.
— alex de minaur (@alexdeminaur) November 27, 2018
Germany’s Zverev, aged 21, is the clear leader of the pack, providing perhaps the biggest sign of the next generation’s arrival when he defeated stalwarts Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic back-to-back to win in London.
“(Djokovic and Federer) are still going to be the guys to beat at the big tournaments,” Zverev told atpworldtour.com.
“I will do everything I can to get better, to compete with them always. I feel like I’m doing that. But I still have a lot of things to improve. I’m still very young. Hopefully, next year, I’ll be able to play better tennis than I did this year, even though it’s been a good year.”
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What a fantastic way to finish an incredible year!!!???? Many thanks to my family, fans, team and sponsors! And now time for holidays…???? @adidastennis @headtennis_official @drivetotennis @richardmilleofficial @accorhotels @zegnaoffical Photo credit to @clivebrunskill #nittoatpfinals
There is still some way to go before the ATP’s young crop of players take the reigns; the last time someone outside the ‘Big Four’ won a Grand Slam for the first time was in 2014 when Stan Wawrinka claimed the Australian Open title.
What’s more, the last time a man 25 years old or younger won a Grand Slam was Andy Murray at the US Open in 2012. And just twice in the last five years has a man 25-years-old or younger reached the final of a Grand Slam.
As for De Minaur, he knows greater success will happen soon.
“My team do a great job just to keep me grounded and focused on the important things. I just worry about myself and just trying to get better,” he said.
“I think time’s a bit on our side. Hopefully it’s gonna happen soon, but any time you get to share the court with one of these top guys, you’ve just gotta take it all in, soak it up and enjoy the moment.”
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