These 5 young guns, all under the age of 23 years, have made great strides in 2018, displaying not only great physical prowess on the court but also strong mental strength and maturity to win matches over their higher ranked opponents. Its very promising for the game of tennis to witness this coming of age of the younger generation. Here are my top 5 players to watch for in 2019:
1. Karen Khachanov, Russian, 22 years old, ranked No.11.
Khachanov defeated four top 10 players (including Djokovic in the finals) on his way to his first Masters 1000 title, the Rolex Paris Masters. His biggest weapon is his heavy forehand ground strokes hitting winners all over the court, especially off a weak return of serve. He has an extreme western grip that imparts heavy topspin on his forehand. A good mover around the court, particularly for a big guy (he’s 6ft 6 in), he is a good retriever and shows great patience waiting for the right moment to strike.
2. Alex De Minaur, Australian, 19 years old, ranked No. 31.
De Minaur, one of only 2 teenagers in the ATP top 100, he started the year below the Top 200, and is now ranked No. 31, a remarkable rise up the ranks. Nicked named “Demon” due to his super competitive streak, he likes to dictate points with his serve and aggressive forehand. One of his biggest strengths now is his speed on the court, often surprising his opponents with his ability to run down shots and hit seemingly impossible passing shots. As he gets older and stronger physically, he will continue to develop his game and will be a force to reckon with in the years to come.
3. Borna Coric, Croatian, 22 years old, ranked No. 12
Coric had always shown great promise as a junior and this year he managed to pull it all together and achieve good results. He beat Federer in the final of the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, his first tour-level grass court. With a powerful serve and more consistent hitting from both his forehand and backhand strokes, he plays with growing confidence and maturity and patiently constructs his points to his advantage .
4. Denis Shapovalov, Canadian, 19 years old, ranked No. 27.
Shapovalov, the other teenager in the ATP top 100, plays a very exciting brand of tennis, with his big explosive lefty strokes and an incredible one-handed backhand that often catches his opponents by surprise with its depth, power and accuracy. At his young age, he has beaten top players like Del Potro and Nadal and will only improve as his game develops in the coming years.
5. Stefanos Tsitsipas, Greek, 20 years old, ranked No. 15.
Tsitsipas started the year at No. 91 and ended at No. 15, becoming the youngest member of the Top 20. He beat De Minaur to win the 2018 Next Generation ATP finals and also became the first player from Greece to win a tour-level title at the Stockholm Open. He was named the ATP 2018 Most Improved player of the Year. He has a strong serve and powerful groundstrokes, and his stand-out shot is his one-handed backhand which he often hits as a down-the line winner. A thoughtful player, he no doubt will continue to build on his game and move up the ranks.