Wimbledon wasn’t exactly a dream of a tournament for some of the rising stars in tennis. Most of the so-called NextGen players went home in the first round. It’s a learning experience, but that’s the point of them being the rising stars.
These next tennis greats are making a name for themselves despite competing against some of the greatest players the game has ever seen.
The torch will one day have to be passed down (no arguing that one), and these players are going to be the ones to carry it.
This 21-year-old recently released a statement saying she hasn’t enjoyed tennis since the Australian Open. She’s been on a downhill ever since her rapid rise to the top last season. She’s still one of the best players on tour right now, ranked No. 2 in the world, without feeling her best.
Osaka had a complete breakout season last year, winning Indian Wells in March and then her first two Grand Slam titles back-to-back with the U.S. Open and Australian Open. Of course her talent attracted the media’s attention, but so did the Serena Williams U.S. Open finals incident. The then 20-year-old found herself in the middle of one of sports’ biggest headlines, that some say shadowed her victory.
The Japanese-Haitian player is a cultural phenom. She has also come to the media’s attention as the first ever Japanese player to win a Grand Slam. All eyes will be on her when she plays in front of her home country during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Osaka has already showed the world the level of tennis she is capable of reaching. She has had plenty of time to reset since Wimbledon and will now return to the hard courts, where she dominated a year ago.
This one is a given.
Cori “Coco” Gauff, at 15, defeated Venus Williams, 39, in the first round of 2019 Wimbledon. Williams had already won four Grand Slams by the time Gauff was born. This was The teen had everyone talking when she took down her idol in straight sets in her first Grand Slam appearance.
Gauff’s first WTA event was in Miami, where she won her first match but lost in the second round. She received a wildcard into the main draw at Wimbledon, and after her historic first-round match, she stretched her run into the fourth round where lost to eventual champion Simona Halep. Gauff recently won her first WTA title in doubles at the Citi Open with 17-year-old Caty McNally.
If Gauff plays as long as her idol Venus, we may be seeing Gauff dominate tennis for the next 25 years.
Much like Osaka, Tsitsipas has become a legend in his home country of Greece. The 20-year-old, currently ranked No. 5, is the youngest player in the top 10.
Perhaps Tsitsipas’ biggest win came almost eight months ago at the Australian Open, where he beat tennis icon and defending champion Roger Federer. The fourth-round match went to four sets with three tiebreakers, and it was the youngster that came out on top.
He went on to reach his first ever Grand Slam semifinal.
But his breakout moment came exactly this time last year at the Rogers Cup. Tsitsipas, at the time still a teenager, blew through four top 10 opponents in a row to reach the finals. His run started with a straight-set defeat of Dominic Thiem in the Round of 32, and continued on by defeating Novak Djokovic, Kevin Anderson, and Alexander Zverev, all in three-set contests.
On his 20th birthday, Tsitsipas fell to Rafael Nadal in the finals.
But Tsitsipas has in fact beaten Nadal. On clay. At the Madrid Open in May, the King of Clay fell in three sets to Tsitsipas in the semifinals.
So Tsitsipas has beat all three of the Big Three players, making him member to a very exclusive group of elite players. And he’s done it all in just one year.
Felix Auger-Aliassime is the breakout player of 2019.
Not only is he the breakout player of the year, but he is Djokovic’s favorite, and I think that speaks for itself.
After his third round match at Wimbledon, the world No. 1 was asked about Auger-Aliassime in his post-match press conference.
“He’s very impressive in many aspects. He’s very mature for his age. Very, very nice guy. Good manners. Respectful. Wants to learn. He’s very dedicated. He’s probably the one that I like the most from the young generation as a tennis player and as a person, I think. All the superlatives for him definitely. He’s been impressive this year, everything he has done. Still a teenager, but he’s one of the best players in the world. If you see the results from this year, he’s one of the most consistent players.”
The Canadian, the youngest player in the top 100, has recently dominated other next-generation players. At Indian Wells in March, he defeated Tsitsipas. At Queens Club, he defeated both Grigor Dimitrov and Nick Kyrigos.
He was the youngest player to ever reach the semifinals at the Miami Open
Auger-Aliassime had his first Grand Slam win at Wimbledon this year, and made it to the third round. Had he won his third-round match, he would have met Djokovic fourth round.
But not to worry. The 18-year-old will have plenty of chances against the top players in tennis. Plenty of chances to prove he belongs.