Top Next Gen Players To Watch In This Year’s US Open

The US Open is about to begin and several of the most notable names on the men’s side are out. Others (Federer and Nadal) are still taking up the top seeds. While some of the best to ever play the game are still winning, there is a new generation of players working hard to climb the rankings. Here are the top players who can make a splash in this year’s US Open.

Denis Shapovalov

Shapovalov burst onto the scene in Montreal during the Rogers Cup when he surprised several top players in route to the semi final. The young Canadian opened eyes with notable wins over Juan Martin Del Potro, Rafael Nadal, and Adrian Mannarino. Playin gin his home country, the lefty electrified the crowd with a barrage of aces and winners. What made Shapovalov particularly entertaining to watch was his ability to hit winners off both wings from seemingly anywhere on the court.

What makes Shapovalov an interesting watch in the US Open this year is that we’ve seen him at probably his best in Montreal, but can he maintain that level? Prior to his breakthrough he was playing challenger tournaments and was ranked well outside the top 100. For this reason, nobody knows quite what to expect from him in this tournament. Making things even more fascinating is that his first round match is against fellow Next Gen player Danil Medvedev. If Shapovalov does make it a few rounds, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will most likely be waiting for him in the third round.

Jared Donaldson

Looking for the next top American tennis player? It could very well be Jared Donaldson. Donaldson made his first major appearance at the US Open in 2014 and has been slowly climbing the rankings ever since. Now ranked 51st in the world he has gained entrance into every major this year and posted his best result at Wimbledon with a third round finish.

There’s reason to be optimistic that Donaldson can continue to rise given his performance in the Western & Southern Open where he defeated David Goffin in the first round and made it to the quarterfinal. Donaldson eventually went out in a close two set match to fellow American John Isner. If the 20 year old keeps playing like he has been, he could crack the top 30 in the next few years.

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Karen Khachanov

Karen Khachanov

Karen Khachanov made his major debut in the US Open last year and hopes to surpass his second round finish from a year ago. This year, he made it past the first round in all three majors played and made it to the fourth round of the French. In Cincinnati Khatchanov had a surprising lost to Sugita from Japan but looks to rebound in the US Open where he has a nice draw. If the seeds hold true, Khachanov will have a third round date with 17th seeded Sam Querrey.

Out of the Next Gen players, Khachanov is the second highest ranked at 29th in the world. In less than two years he has gone from a relative unknown to one of the top young players in the game. He is definitely someone to keep an eye on going forward.

Alexander Zverev

By a wide margin, Alexander Zverev tops the list of top under 21 players. For over a year now tennis experts have been tabbing Zverev as not only a top 25 player but a future number one. This year, his best major finish was the fourth round at Wimbledon where he lost a tough five set match to Milos Raonic.

Zverev has had a great summer in which he climbed the rankings all the way to a four seed at the US Open. In addition to his high ranking, Zverev has the distinction of the only man on tour to win two Masters 1,000 events this year not named Nadal or Federer.

With a bevy of top players withdrawing from the US Open including Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, Zverev has a great chance to make some noise and potentially even win his first major.

The big four have enjoyed unprecedented longevity at the top of the game. However, this may be the generation that finally dethrones the top players and turns the sport over to the new guard. Fans may see this process in action at this year’s US Open

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Western & Southern Open Headlines

Half way through the Western & Southern Open, there have already been many surprises. The Western & Southern in Cincinnati serves as the closest thing to a US Open warm up tournament with many players using it as a dress rehearsal. Here are some of the early headlines from the tournament.

Alexander Zverev
Alexander Zverev

David Ferrer’s Resurgence

Remember when David Ferrer was one of the top ten players in the world and a legitimate contender to make it to the second week of majors? After a short stretch of poor play causing Ferrer to drop out of the top 30, it looks like he’s back. The 35 year old is into the quarterfinals after two three set matches and a 6-4 6-4 win over Pablo Carreno Busta. In Montreal Ferrer went toe to toe with Roger Federer losing in three sets. He may not be a threat to win the title this year but it is nice to see Ferrer finding his game again.

Shavopalov’s Absence

Last week in Montreal the tennis world was captivated by 18 year old Denis Shapovalov. After making it to the semifinal before losing to Alexander Zverev, the tennis world is eager to see if he can follow up his performance. Unfortunately, the tennis world will have to wait until the US Open qualifying in order to see him on the big stage again. The reason he isn’t in the Western & Southern Open is that he was already scheduled to play a challenger tournament in Canada. Watch for Shapovalov to be a story again when the US Open qualifying rounds begin.

Sock’s Disappointing Tournament

Cincinnati looked promising for Jack Sock. Roger Federer withdrew from the tournament leaving the young American as the top seed in his quarter. Primed to make a deep run and assert himself as the top player in the country, Sock promptly fell flat losing to world number 46 Yuichi Sugita in two sets. Young players frequently lose to players below their ranking and ability level as they make their way through the ATP tour. However, with Sock it seems that this happens more regularly than it does to other players. This year’s US Open represents Socks best chance yet to make a run with many top players out. It may be now or never for Sock to prove himself.

American Semifinalist

With Sock struggling, other Americans are stepping up. In fact, an American is guaranteed to be in the semifinal as John Isner takes on upstart Jared Donaldson.  Donaldson took down twelfth seeded Roberto Bautista Agut in the first round and cruised to the quarterfinal. Isner benefited from Frances Tiafoe upsetting Alexander Zverev in the second round. Keep an eye on Donaldson in this match up as he has a bright future ahead of him on the tour.

Jared Donaldson
Jared Donaldson

Zverev’s Loss

After his second Masters 1000 title of the year in which he defeated Roger Federer, Alexander Zverev had a huge let down against fellow next gen player Frances Tiafoe. Tiafoe is ranked 87th in the world and has a lot of natural athleticism. Even so, given how well Zverev has been playing recently, this is as big of an upset as any in the tournament thus far. Look for Zverev to get back on track and be a real contender for his first major title.

With the quarterfinals all set, the final rounds of the Western & Southern Open promise to be exciting. It serves as a great lead in to the US Open which will be equally wide open.

Djokovic To Miss US Open

Novak Djokovic has officially announced that he will miss the US Open and the rest of the 2017 season. The cited reason for taking time off was the elbow pain that has plagued him for most of this year. According to Djokovic, he was hoping he would be able to play through the pain, but it became too much to handle during his WImbledon quarterfinal match against Thomas Berdych.

Expert Opinion

Djokovic’s doctor Zdenko Milinkovic stated earlier this week that his recommendation is for Novak to completely rest his elbow for six to twelve weeks with absolutely no tennis training. He can still weight train however.

Novak’s Future In Tennis

Djokovic is taking the injury one week at a time and not making any long term plans one way or another. He is going to rest his elbow for the remainder of the year regardless of how it feels and monitor how the injury is progressing. Numerous articles have stated that his tennis future is in doubt. However, in reality it’s highly unlikely that this is the last we’ve seen of Djokovic. The more important thing to wonder about is whether or not he can ever return to top form and reclaim his position of number one in the world. For that question, only time will tell

Is No Ad Scoring Coming To Wimbledon?

One of the biggest problems for Men’s tennis was on display earlier this week when several players retired early in their first round matches. Alexander Dolgopolov retired after only 43 minutes on the court vs. Roger Federer and Martin Klizan quit in a similar fashion against Novak Djokovic. Even some of the top players got into the mix with Nick Kyrgios retiring in the third set of his first round match. In all, seven men retired in their first round matches which had Wimbledon players and analysts alike scrambling to find a solution. Some suggestions included prize money re-distribution, changing to a 2 out of 3 set format, and most shocking of all, no ad scoring.

The Problem

Players on the men’s side retiring is not a new problem in major tennis. As the year goes on, players get worn down by the arduous pro tour. By the time Wimbledon and the US Open roll around many have nagging injuries and would most likely be better served not playing at all. However, the key to the issue is the prize money. Even in a first round loss, a player in the draw banks 40,000 dollars for singles. This prompts many players to show up for their match, retire once they are too hurt to play or even if they don’t feel like playing. Then they collect their check and go home. A lot of times the players that aren’t in the top 25 need the money to help continue their career or pay for general expenses. This means that these retirements often take place on outside courts in matches that fans aren’t particularly invested in. This time however, it happened on the biggest stage at the most prestigious tournament.

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Nick Kyrgios

In major tournaments, fans pay big money to see their favorite tennis players on the grandest venues. As a result, it came as a shock when both Djokjovic and Federer’s opponents retired after each playing less than two full sets of tennis. This means that fans expecting to watch hours of competitive tennis got to see less than an hour per match. These unfortunate back to back retirements on center court prompted many to call for changes to be made.

Posed Solutions

As reports of retirements continued to flood in, a flurry of potential solutions were discussed. Changing the system that prize money is awarded was a hot topic. Some suggested paying players even if they withdraw before the tournament starts. This seems like it could lead to players purposefully withdrawing to collect a check without having to do anything. Pam Shriver chimed in saying that she believes the real reason for the retirements is that best three out of five sets is too grueling for the players. The ATP tour events are played in the form of best two out of three but the majors are known for their longer duration. When Chris Evert put forth the idea of no ad scoring in majors as a way to eliminate injuries and prevent early retirements several of the other analysts chuckled. However, what if it isn’t such a crazy idea?

How is No Ad Used In Tennis?

No ad scoring is used in some forms of tennis such as world team tennis, the mixed gender, team based competition played on those multi colored courts. It has also found its way into Division I college tennis. The purpose of no ad is to speed up the game and eliminate the long back and forth deuce games. While no ad rubs most traditional players the wrong way, some praise it for making the game more exciting as each deuce point comes with more pressure.

Changing to no ad scoring would indeed make matches shorter. It would also most likely generate more parity and upsets as more games could be won on lucky points. This idea seems to fly in the face of pro tennis’ identity which is based on the best player coming out victorious in a physically demanding match. Going to no ad would eliminate some of the wear and tear but it would also eliminate the conditioning and endurance fact that makes the game challenging

It’s highly unlikely that any major scoring changes will take place at the four major tournaments any time soon. Tennis is a sport that generally prides itself in its tradition and only tampers with it when absolutely necessary. With a plethora of other solutions available to try, some changes may be coming, but most likely none that will negatively impact the viewing experience of the fans.

Who Is The 700th Ranked Player On The Men’s Tour?

The number 700 has been tossed around ever since John McEnroe said that’s where Serena Williams would be ranked if she played on the men’s tour. This idea has drawn criticism and praise alike, but does anyone know who the 700th ranked man on tour is?

John McEnroe has recently been in the news for a comment he made regarding Serena Williams. McEnroe called Serena the best player on the women’s tour. When pressed for an answer as to why he qualified the statement by calling her the best “female” player as opposed to the best player overall, he stated that Serena would not be a top player on the men’s tour. He went on to say that if Serena played against the men she would be “like, number 700 in the world.”

Whether or not that statement is factual is really anybody’s guess. However, the number 700 in the world has been the topic of discussion as a benchmark separating the men’s and women’s tours according to McEnroe’s statement. So who is the 700th ranked player on the men’s tour?

Who Is Number 700?

While ATP rankings change frequently, the honor of number 700 in the world currently belongs to Issam Haitham Taweel. The 27 year old was born in Aleppo, Syria but represents Egypt. He is right handed, has a two-handed backhand, and his favorite playing surface is hard court.

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Issam Haitham Taweel

Most of Issam’s career has been spent playing ITF Pro Circuit events. This year he has an 8-14 record when combining ATP and ITF tournaments. His career record is 145-212. He has spent some time competing in ATP tournaments and has a career record of 2-5 in those draws. His career high singles ranking was achieved in 2014 when he cracked the top 700 at 635. His current doubles ranking is slightly higher than his singles ranking at 643.

Could He Beat Serena?

At this point everyone can only speculate about whether or not Issam could defeat Serena in a match. That being said, this is a great opportunity for the number 700 in the world. Issuing a challenge to Williams to play him in a match after she is back from having her baby would be a great way to get his name out there. Even if Williams declined the challenge, people would at least know his name and know that he was up for the challenge.

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Serena Williams

What It Means

McEnroe followed up his comments by later stating that he regretted making the statement saying he had no idea how much it would snowball. However, he did not retract it. He said comparing the men’s and women’s tour is comparing “apples to oranges.” This is most certainly true considering the players from each tour almost never compete against each other in a serious format.

For Issam, this could be the opportunity of a lifetime. Whether he likes it or not, people are now aware of his name simply because of circumstance. Simply because he is lucky 700.

Sandgren Earns French Open Wildcard

Every year, one lucky American male tennis player is selected to receive a Wild Card entry to the French Open main draw. The Wildcard represents a huge opportunity for a player to by-pass the qualifying rounds and go straight into the draw. This year, the honor goes to 25 year old Tennys Sandgren.

The road to Roland Garros has not been an easy one for Sandgren. The former Tennessee Volunteer turned pro after his sophomore college season in 2011 after helping the Volunteers win SEC titles in consecutive years. Since then, he has played mostly challenger events and major qualifying tournaments. In fact, Sandgren has played in the qualifying rounds of 12 major tournaments but never been able to make it to a main draw until now.

To make things even more difficult, Sandgren suffered a torn labrum in 2014 and had to have hip surgery. In 2015 he had shoulder and wrist issues that also hindered his play.

Fast forward to 2017, and Sandgren has earned a bid to his first ever major tournament by accumulating the most points in the USTA wildcard challenge. Sandgren ended up with 135 points after winning the $75,000 USTA Pro Circuit Challenger in Savannah (St. Joseph’s/Chandler Savannah Challenger) and reaching the final of the ATP $100,000 Challenger in Sarasota, Fla.

“I finally feel like I’m in a good spot and thankfully I’ve been able to stay healthy,” said Sandgren. “To be able to play a full schedule and feel strong and ready to go is a big deal for me. I am trying to take advantage of that.”

To make things even sweeter, his win in Savannah also gives him a career high singles ranking of 114th in the world. This is especially impressive considering that last year he was at certain points ranked outside of the top 300.

The wildcard entry represents an incredible opportunity for Sandgren to take his game to the next level and gain more of a following. When asked just what it means to have this chance, Sandgren said “It’s such a great opportunity at the French and I really want to pull from this experience and maybe snag a couple of wins. I want to go and compete and give it my best effort. To do that and be able to get a few wins would be pretty spectacular.”

Is Jack Sock the Best Hope for American Tennis?

The United States is still looking for a male tennis player to come along and revitalize the sport in America. Is it possible that Jack Sock could be the nations best hope for a major champion?

It has been well over a decade since an American man has won a major tennis title In fact, the last to do it was Any Roddick in 2003. Since that time, the sport of tennis in America has seen a decline in interest as sports like basketball and football have dominated. Tennis in the U.S.A. needs a male player to help revitalize the general public’s interest. That player just might be Jack Sock.

Twenty Four year old Jack Sock made the change from talented up and comer to contender in 2016 when he made the third round of the French Open. Since then he has not exited any major tournament before the round three. He has now become a top 20 tennis player (ranked 15th) and in the process overtaken John Isner as the top American in the world.

Sock started catching people’s attention in 2016 when he made the round of 16 at the US Open. He ended up losing to Joe-Wilfiried Tsonga in four sets. However, before his fourth round loss, he defeated seventh seeded Marin Cilic in straight sets. With this new found success, Sock looks to push himself to the next level and get closer to holding a trophy at a major tournament.

What makes Sock’s game special?

Sock’s game is centered around one thing: power. He wins by pushing people off the base line with heavy ground strokes and a serve capable of reaching 140 miles per hour. He then looks to attack and finish with his forehand. This one two punch has been the bread and butter of other American players in recent years such as John Isner, Sam Querrey, and Andy Roddick. If Sock’s game is similar to other Americans, then what sets him apart? Two things: his on court movement, and drive.

Movement

Players like the aforementioned Roddick and Isner relied almost entirely on their serve to win matches. If they had an off day serving, they weren’t able to supplement with their return game. part of the struggle for these players was that their movement was lacking (especially for the 6’ 10” Isner). Sock is still relatively tall at 6’ 3” but is more agile on the court and therefore capable of winning more points off of the return. He can also win in a variety of ways as opposed to strictly bombing serves. he is a solid defensive player and can run down more balls than many of his compatriots.

Determination

In addition to his physical skills, Sock simply won’t settle for less than number one. He has been known to practice even after matches and was quoted in February as saying that he won’t be content as just a top 20 player, he wants more. This attitude is refreshing when compared with some of the less driven players on the tour such.

“Not many people can say they’ve been the top player in their sport in all of the U.S. But my goals and aspirations are higher than top 20 in the world. I want to be top 10, top five. I want to win Slams and be No. 1 one day.” – Jack Sock

What stands in his way?

While Sock seems to be on the right track, there is by no means a guarantee that he will win a major. In men’s tennis, the big four still reign supreme. In fact, in the last ten years, only three players not named Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, or Raphael Nadal have won major tournaments (five events total). That’s an astonishing 35 out of 40 wins for the big four.

Aside from the big name players, there are also several young players posing potential challenges for Sock. 23 year olds Dominic Thiem of Austria and 23 year old Lucas Pouille of France are ranked ahead of Sock at ninth and fourteenth respectively. Two other young players looking to contend are 22 year old Nick Kyrios of Australia at seventeenth and 20 year old Alexander Zverev of Germany sitting in the twentieth spot. This combination of major champions and up and comers makes the road to the top extremely difficult.

What’s in store this year for Sock?

After getting to the third round of the Australian Open in February, Sock hopes to get farther at the French Open. Sock actually reached the fourth round of Roland Garros in 2015 and looks to break through to his first quarterfinal in a major. Making it to at least the quarterfinals of a major and getting into the top ten by the end of the year would be an achievable goal for Sock.

For years now, American tennis fans have been waiting for a legitimate contender. Now, they just might have one in Jack Sock.

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