Can any of the rising stars of men’s tennis overthrow the ‘big three’?
The 2019 US Open is just around the corner and having recently heard the news that Andy Murray won’t be making a return in the singles of the Grand Slam, as well as former champion Juan Martin del Potro out with injury, it’s looking very likely that one of the ‘big three’ will win the title. You have to go back as far as the 2016 US Open final to find the last time one of the major tournaments wasn’t won by Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal – and on that occasion, Stan Wawrinka was successful. When looking at the odds for the US Open men’s competition, you will of course find the ‘big three’ the overwhelming favorites – but what about the young players completing the ATP top 10?
Dominic Thiem – world number 4
At 25-years-old, Dominic Thiem has been on the scene for a few years now and come every Grand Slam, his name is often up there for success. His greatest achievements have come at the French Open, making two finals (both losses to the King of Clay, Nadal) and two semi-finals at Roland-Garros.
However, last year, he made his best appearance at Flushing Meadows, reaching the quarter-finals for the first time. Again, losing to Nadal, he’ll be hoping for a better draw this year.
Thiem has 14 ATP titles to his name, the majority of which have been won on clay and he is often referred to as Nadal’s successor. He has a 67%-win record over Federer, with Nadal and Djokovic both boasting better records against the Austrian.
Alexander Zverev – world number 6
At 22-years-old, Alexander Zverev has been described as a ‘rising star’ of men’s tennis, with Nadal even calling him a “clear possible future number 1”. He is the current ATP Finals champion, having defeated Djokovic in straight sets and has 10 other titles to his name.
Despite a shock first-round exit at Wimbledon recently, Zverev has performed well in the Grand Slams this year, with a fourth-round exit in Melbourne and a quarter-finals place at Roland-Garros. Last year, he made the third round of the US Open, his best run to date, losing to compatriot Philipp Kohlschreiber.
There are some concerns over the German, who crashed out of his opening round match at the Cincinnati Masters, making 20 double faults over Miomir Kecmanović – with off-the-court issues cited for his lack of form. Looking at his head-to-head record over the ‘big three’, as well as three main rivals (Kyrgios, Tsitsipas and Thiem), Zverev isn’t ahead of any of them. If he wants to be successful at Flushing Meadows, he will need a return to form, pronto.
Stefanos Tsitsipas – world number 7
Greek Tsitsipas is the youngest player in the ATP top 10 and he made his breakthrough last year, not only making the main draw of all four Grand Slam tournaments for the first time, but making the final of the Canadian Open. He lost to Nadal, but beat four top-10 opponents en route to the final.
This year alone, he has reached the semi-finals at the other hard-court Grand Slam, the Australian Open, which again he lost to Nadal, who went on to finish runner-up. However, he has a 50% win record over both Federer and Djokovic.
As the 15th seed of last year’s US Open, Tsitsipas lost out in round two and undoubtedly, will be looking to go further this year at Flushing Meadows.
Other names to consider are Daniil Medvedev. The world number 8 is only 23 and broke into the top-10 in July. Most recently, the Russian lost the finals of the Canadian Masters and the Washington Open and the semi-finals at Queen’s ahead of Wimbledon.
Nick Kyrgios is another contender, dependent on which side of the player turns up. The 24-year-old, known for his controversy, recently smashed two rackets in his defeat to Karen Khachanov at the Cincinnati Masters. But prior to that tournament, he won the Washington Open with victory over Medvedev. The furthest he has gone at Flushing Meadows is round three.
Khachanov must also be considered and the 23-year-old has surged up the rankings. He won the Paris Masters last year and has already made a Grand Slam quarter-final this year.
Finally, Felix Auger Aliassime at 19-years-old is youngest player in the top 100, ranked 21st in the world. He won the US Open Junior Grand Slam in 2016 and more recently made round three at Wimbledon – he will certainly be one to watch in the future, but maybe not this year.