For the last decade plus, the ATP has been dominated by the “Big Three” of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Rafael Nadal. They make up the top three in terms of all-time Grand Slam tournament victories and will go down among the greatest tennis players of all-time.
But all three are now well into their 30s, and their time at the very top likely won’t last that much longer. So who among the current crop of young men’s tennis players can step up to become the next stars of the game?
There are a number of candidates, but SBOTOP has singled out the five contenders who have the best case to take over as the top players on tour.
Russian tennis is having quite a resurgence, with three players currently ranked in the top 20. But the one who is arguably the most promising among those three is Daniil Medvedev.
The 24-year-old has had a remarkable rise over the last couple of seasons. After winning three titles in 2018, he won four more in 2019 to break into the top five in the ATP rankings.
Medvedev had a brilliant stretch of making six straight tournament finals, which included his first career Grand Slam final in the US Open as he lost an epic five-setter against Rafael Nadal.
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has described Medvedev as a “very complete player,” although the Russian still has a lot of room to improve on clay. He has a losing record for his career on clay (10-16) and has yet to make it out of the first round of the French Open.
But if Medvedev continues to make the improvements he’s shown over the past couple of years, it may be just a matter of time before he becomes the all-surface contender that like Djokovic and Nadal.
Much like Medvedev, 2019 proved to be a breakout year for Stefanos Tsitsipas. After winning the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals, the 21-year-old Greek shocked the world by beating Roger Federer in the round of 16 of the Australian Open. He went all the way to the semi-finals, where he lost to Rafael Nadal.
Tsitsipas would go on to reach five finals on the season, winning three titles. That includes his remarkable victory at the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals, where he defeated the likes of Medvedev, Federer, and World No. 3 Dominic Thiem.
Tsitsipas has already experienced success on both hard and clay court in his young career, although his record on grass remains a work in progress.
But all the tools and skills are clearly there for him to dominate on all surfaces, and will likely be among the top favourites in the ATP 2020 once the tour gets back up and running.
Even at a young age, Zverev has been touted by many as the next big thing in men’s tennis, and with good reason. Technically speaking, the German has a tremendous skill set. He’s got powerful groundstrokes, a great service game, and an excellent two-hand backhand.
Zverev made it all the way up to No. 3 in the world at age 20 and already has 11 singles titles to his name at age 22. However, Zverev’s momentum took a big hit in 2019 as he won just one title.
Meanwhile, he still hasn’t had his big Grand Slam moment, which has raised questions about his mental make-up and physical endurance to battle through five-set matches. Although, he made it to the semi-finals of this year’s Australian Open, which is at least a promising sign of more ATP 2020 highlights to come.
Despite the doubts about Zverev, it’s easy to forget that he’s still only 22 years of age. The talent is undeniable, and perhaps he just needs a bit more time to develop into the superstar may believe he can be.
Aside from Russia, Canada also has a couple of up-and-coming hotshots in the form of Felix Auger-Aliasimme and Denis Shapovalov. But the former just edges out his compatriot by virtue of sheer potential.
The 19-year-old — who shares a birthday with a certain Roger Federer — is currently the highest-ranked teenager on tour at No. 20. He became the first 18-year-old to break into the top 25 since Lleyton Hewitt on the back of three ATP finals appearances. While he lost all three, it’s just a matter of time before he claims his first title.
With his booming serve and forehand, he has the making of a future Wimbledon champion — at the very least.
Alex de Minaur
Speaking of Hewitt, Australia may finally have someone to follow in the former World No. 1’s footsteps in Alex de Minaur. The 21-year-old is coming off a terrific 2019 where he won the first three singles titles of his career.
Admittedly, de Minaur is not quite as gifted as the other players in terms of skill at this stage in his career. But he more than makes up for it in aggressiveness, determination, and sheer effort, which are qualities that should not be overlooked.
As his skills develop in time, this Aussie could be a force to be reckoned with in the near future.
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