With the 2019 ATP season a week behind us now, tennis enthusiasts and experts are not only looking forward to the 2020 season, but already analyzing, speculating and forecasting the ‘whos, ‘whats’ and ‘wheres’ for 2020. Who are the players we think could break into the top 10 of ATP rankings over the next 12-24 months? Read on…
The off-seaon has left us at the crossroads of whether the Big Three dominance continues or has the ‘Next Gen’ given us enough to believe that they are truly ready to step it up from the ‘Best of Three’ sets success to the ‘Best of Five’ sets success.
While the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev have proven themselves as contenders at the Masters 1000s, ATP Tour Finals and other ATP tournaments, as well as been regular and worthy members now of the Top 10 rankings, Tennis World Live takes a look at who could potentially break into the ATP Top 10 for the first time in their careers, in 2020.
Having broken onto the scene in 2017 with victories over Juan Martin del Potro and Rafael Nadal at the Canadian Open Masters 1000, it has been an up and down road for Shapovalov since. While still only 20 years of age, it seems like the young Canadian has been around for a while.
Although Shapovalov has shown flair, flamboyance and talent from the very beginning, he spent most of 2018 and the first half of 2019 struggling for consistency with results like the Miami Open Masters 1000 semi-finals on the one side, followed by disappointing early round exits on the other.
With the addition of Mikhail Youzhny to his coaching team around the US Open, the Canadian has turned around his ‘inconsistent’ results with a strong showing during the Asian swing, a first ever ATP title win at the Stockholm Open, a finalist at the Paris Masters 1000 and ending the year by leading Canada to the Davis Cup finals in Madrid.
A year-end ranking of a career high 15 makes Shapovalov one of the front runners to break into the top 10 in 2020, if his level of play and consistency continues.
Alex de Minaur
2019 was a phenomenal year for young Aussie Alex de Minaur, winning his first and a total of three ATP titles, in Sydney, Atlanta and Zhuhai. He was also a finalist at the Swiss Indoors at Basel losing to Roger Federer in the final. The Aussie also made the second week of a major for the first time at the US Open defeating Kei Nishikori en route.
He was a clear favorite to win the Next Gen ATP finals in Milan and looked on course until he was routed in the final by 18-year-old Italian prodigy Jannik Sinner (and we talk about Sinner later too).
De Minaur broke into the top 20 of the ATP rankings for the first time ending the year ranked 18th, and with a balanced head on his shoulders and an all-court game with no obvious weakness, he remains one of the top contenders to break into the top 10 of the ATP rankings in the ensuing year.
After a promising 2017, Andrey Rublev spent most of 2018 battling and recovering from injuries resulting in lack of confidence and poor form.
Failing to make an immediate impact upon his return in early 2019, the Russian has had an impressive second half of the year, winning the title in Moscow, being a runner up in Hamburg and consistently challenging top ranked players, scoring victories against Roger Federer, Dominic Thiem, Stanislas Wawrinka, Nick Kyrgios, Stefanos Tsitsipas and others.
Rublev led a spirited Russian Davis Cup effort qualifying for the semi-finals and ending the year ranked 23rd. He will be looking to continue his momentum in 2020. With a game well suited to the indoor and hard courts, and a powerful running forehand which is among the best in the game, it will not be a surprise to see him break into the top 10 of the rankings, health and fitness permitting.
Although Borna Coric has been on the ATP circuit for a few years now, he still remains only 23 years of age with a potentially long career still to look forward to. 2018 was Coric’s breakout year, winning the ATP 500 at Halle, defeating Roger Federer twice during the year, and being a finalist at the ATP 1000 in Shanghai. Coric ended the year ranked number 12 and was a frontrunner to break into the top 10 in 2019.
That was however not to be, with it being a year of poor form and injuries for the young Croat. Pulling out of Wimbledon and the US Open (after the first round) and a series of early losses elsewhere has resulted in him ending the year ranked number 28.
However, Coric is a gritty counter-puncher with a ‘never say die’ attitude and knows what it takes to make a comeback and be a factor on the big stage as we have seen before.
As the field gets more challenging, Coric like all others, knows that the comeback will be challenging, but he definitely remains in the reckoning for one that can be knocking on the doors of the top ten in 2020
Felix Auger Aliassime
2019 has been a breakthrough year for 19-year-old Canadian Felix Auger- Aliassime. The teenager played three ATP finals, at Rio, Lyon and Stuttgart respectively, as well as being a semi-finalist at the Miami Open Masters 1000. Auger-Aliassime proved himself to be a force to reckon with on clay, grass and the hard courts.
Victories against Grigor Dimitrov, Nick Kyrgios and Stefanos Tsitsipas among others remained evidence that he was capable of holding his ground among the more established names as well.
Having broken into the top 20 and being ranked as high as number 17, Auger-Aliassime ended the year ranked number 21. Injuries, fitness and health issues have been an issue for the young Canadian and it remains to be seen how his body handles the toll of the season.
If he revives the strong form he hit this season, and continues to work on his fitness and health, the 19-year-old remains a force to reckon with in 2020, and could be another one to break into the top 10 of the ATP rankings for the first time in his career.
American Next Gen
Let’s now look at USA’s next-gen tennis players who could go on to make it big.
As the decade comes to an end, it may go down as one of the poorest decades for the American men on the ATP circuit in a while. From the days of Jimmy Connors and John Mcenroe to Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Michael Chang to Andy Roddick, US tennis has seen slam winners and world number ones in addition to other accolades.
Although the 2010s have seen the likes of John Isner and Sam Querrey among others make the top 10 of the rankings and be Grand Slam semifinalists and ATP Masters 1000 winners, it has missed the level of players listed above and in turn not been a factor on the biggest stage.
America’s hopes among the ‘Next Gen’ rely on the likes of Frances Tiafoe, Taylor Fritz and Reilly Opelka.
While Tiafoe seemed to be the one to take the mantle, he has not been able to capitalize on his early 2018 Delray Beach win and is currently ranked just within the top 50.
A slow starter in the early years, Taylor Fritz has seen his career move upward in 2019, and continues to be a force on the faster surfaces, with some noteworthy wins in 2019, and a year end ranking just outside the top 30.
A lesser name among the U.S. ‘Next Gen’, big serving Reilly Opelka has moved his way up the rankings with some consistent performances and ranked 36 at year end. While neither of these Americans are obvious picks to break into the top 10 of the rankings in 2020, a strong run by any may well see them at or close to the mark.
Given recent form and results, Taylor Fritz currently seems to be the leader of the pack.
As we have touched on the likely candidates for breaking into the top 10 for the first time, there are always the unexpected dark horses, like Jannik Sinner and Mikael Ymer.
Playing his first ever ATP tournament in April in Hungary, 18-year-old Jannik Sinner had a phenomenal year to end the year ranked number 78, being a semi-finalist in Antwerp and surprising all winning the ‘Next Gen’ Tour Finals in Milan.
Young Swede Mikael Ymer displayed his abilities at a very young age on the tour this year, and having reached a number 75 ranking and talking to Stefan Edberg about potentially coaching him, 2020 may well see him making significant moves up the ranking ladder.
Winning four ATP Challenger titles and two ITF Futures titles in 2019, the likes of little known Finnish Emil Ruusuvuori would do well to see themselves meet with more success and move up the ATP rankings in 2020.While they may not break into the top 10, they may well be discussed in 12 months from now in the light of where Shapovalov, De Minaur and the like are today.
After more than five years since his breakthrough on the circuit defeating Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon, Nick Kyrgios is no newcomer to the big stage, nor member of ‘Next Gen’. He has had a career high ranking of number 12 and is currently ranked number 30. While he would be no one’s obvious pick to have a successful and/or consistent year, it would not be wise to discount what the maverick Aussie can potentially achieve at any point in time.
While Kyrgios has displayed the ability to beat the best in the business, given his record against the top ranked players, he has continued to be lacking in temperament and discipline and that is what has held him back in moving up the rankings, and winning titles consistently.
Nick Kyrgios will more likely than not, not break into the top 10 in 2020, but it should be no surprise to anyone if he breaks into the top 10 or falls out of the top 100, in 2020.
As we list a host of names above, that seem like the frontrunners, outsiders and dark horses to break into the ATP top 10 for the first time in their careers, there is always the unpredictability and unexpected factor that could, in very short order, make the ‘likely’ very ‘unlikely’ and provide us with a sample set of candidates during the course of 2020 that may well look very different to what it does today.
The unpredictability is however what leaves experts and enthusiasts expecting the unexpected, forecasting the unknown, and setting them up for excitement, suspense and drama as another tennis season unfolds.