The next generation of men's tennis

Novak Djokovic has dominated men’s tennis this year, but with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal physically exhausted, 2021 also marked a ch...


Novak Djokovic has dominated men’s tennis this year, but with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal physically exhausted, 2021 also marked a change of guard: Stefanos Tsitsipas reached the Roland Garros final; Matteo Berrettini reached the Wimbledon final; Alexander Zverev won the Olympic gold medal; and Daniil Medvedev reached the final of the Australian Open and then won the United States Open. All are 25 years old or younger.

Now a new generation of young people, 24 and under, are moving up the rankings, but some will stagnate.

To separate from their peers, everyone must polish their game; these 10 are more likely to join the elite in the sport, if they improve on one aspect of their game. Here is an assessment of each player by coaches, analysts and former pros. The rankings are until Thursday.

Norway, 22; world ranking: 8

Ruud’s speed and the full game shines on clay, said Tom Shimada, coach at Van Der Meer Tennis Academy in South Carolina, “but now he has to figure out how to play on the fastest serves.”

Ruud needs more free points on the service, said Jimmy Arias, director of the IMG Academyfrom the Florida tennis program and a Tennis Channel analyst. “He still has to work on his serve and in three out of five set tournaments, which makes it difficult. “

Patrick McEnroe, director of the John McEnroe Tennis Academy in New York and an analyst for ESPN, was pleasantly surprised by Ruud’s services and instead thinks Ruud needs “more firepower on his forehand, whether it’s more power or more spin.”

Poland, 24 years old; ranking: 9

Hurkacz turned heads with his victory at the Miami Open this year, but Arias said he needs to keep consistency as he sometimes loses against fewer players.

McEnroe sees a lack of confidence in it despite his rise in the standings: “He must be more aggressive with his shots, but also with his attitude. He could use a little boast.

Italy, 20 years old; ranking: 11

Sinner himselffa said he couldn’t pick a single thing to improve on. “I am only 20 years old; I have to improve everything, ”he said. “I have to improve the serve, my volleys and also mix up my game.”

McEnroe and Arias said he needed variety and creativity in his approach. “It lacks the intricacies of the game,” McEnroe said, “when to hit the ball 60 percent or slice it in the middle and get the other guy to come up with something.”

Canada, 21 years old; ranking: 12

It sometimes becomes tense, causing service interruptions at critical times. “He’s just going to give you a serve break with two double faults and two inexplicable first ball errors,” Arias said.

McEnroe said Auger-Aliassime was a real student of the game, so he thinks too much at times. “He’s looking for the perfect shot, so he makes mistakes,” McEnroe said. “He needs to relax, let go and play with more freedom, trusting his athleticism. “

Canada, 22 years old; ranking: 13

Shapovalov was Captivating fans since shocking Nadal at the age of 18 at the 2017 Canadian Open, but Shapovalov’s power and style can work to his detriment. “He has great weapons, but he goes for a lot,” Shimada said. Trying to blow up winners is “a tough way to consistently beat guys who play amazing defense.”

McEnroe said Shapovalov needed more high percentage shots on his serve return: “He tends to take big shots and needs to be more consistent on the return, playing smart, neutral or even defensive shots to get in. the rally. “

United States, 24 years; ranking: 26

Opelka needs confidence. “Reaching the next level will require a shift in his mindset,” Shimada said.

Arias remembered seeing Opelka double fault twice in a row in Atlanta this summer, then said to himself over and over, “I should have done team sports.”

McEnroe said at 6-11, Opelka needed to maximize size and power, increasing forehands, returns and serves. “He jokes that he doesn’t want to be a ‘server-bot’, but he should play like one more often,” McEnroe said. “To beat the best players, he has to master them. “

United States, 21 years old; ranking: 38

Korda soared of the 119th this year, but his continued rise requires better serve, Shimada said, citing his loss to Karen Khachanov at Wimbledon, where Korda was broken seven times in the fifth set as part A.

“You can’t make that happen,” McEnroe said. “The serve has to improve, and it has to get stronger and more assertive.”

Spain, 18 years old; ranking: 40

Even for this article, which is essentially finicky, Arias, McEnroe, and Shimada were puzzled about the dynamics. Alcaraz, which has jumped in the rankings to 141 this year.

“If I had to pick a guy where you can’t find one thing, it’s Alcaraz,” McEnroe said. “He can do anything, and he’s got moxie.”

United States, 21; ranking: 56

He thinks he needs to commit to being physical and running the ball through the points to avoid going defensive. “This is what I work on the most” Brooksby noted.

While Shimada, McEnroe and Arias are blown away by his movements and sensations, as well as his unusual strokes and style, they said his big deal really is his serve.

“For its size, [6-foot-4], its service is poor at best, ”said McEnroe.

He’ll need a dangerous serve to win a major tournament, but if he improves there, Arias said, be careful.

“With more important service, it could be American Daniil Medvedev.”

Italy, 19 years old; ranking: 65

He Is simple in his self-analysis. “I have to improve my serve, but especially my return and especially on the hard courts,” said Musetti, a clay specialist. “With my one-handed backhand, I have to work to get to the ball.”

Give it points for self-awareness. “He’s just not doing enough with the serve,” Shimada said, while Arias said with a one-handed backhand Musetti at least had to become neutral on returns (hitting them harder so he does not start trading at a disadvantage).

McEnroe said Musetti “doesn’t step in as naturally as other guys and has to take the ball a little bit earlier.”

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