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ATP Rising Stars

Borna Coric

With the news that 14 year old Canadian Felix Auger Aliassime has received an ATP Emirates world ranking, its worth looking forward to the future of mens tennis and who will knock current stars Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal off the top spots.

Over the past couple of years we have already seen glimmers of hope for rising stars on the ATP professional tour, for example when young Aussie Nick Kyrgios reached the quarterfinals of Wimbledon last year, or when 17-year-old German Alexander Zverev reached the semi finals of the Hamburg 500 tournament in July 2014. Here are my top 5 ATP stars of the future.

5. Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP)

He’s already being recognised by compatriots Nadal, Ferrer and Almagro as the next Spanish tennis superstar and the current world number 54 is certainly living up to these expectations. The former 6th best junior in the world has impressed on the biggest stage by getting to the 3rd round at the US Open last year overcoming Andreas Beck and Benoit Paire before bowing out to ninth seed Tsonga in three tight sets.

But he’s not just shown his worth when everyone’s watching at Grand Slams, because in 2013 alone, the Spaniard won 7 consecutive ITF futures titles followed by a further 4 consecutive ATP Challenger titles defeating the talents of fellow youngsters Dominic Thiem and Roberto Carballes Baena in an out of this world year.

However for him to start knocking on the door of the world’s Top 30, he needs to improve his performances in first round matches of Masters 1000 events, but nonetheless he is a big talent who will definitely become Spain’s best player in years to come.

Zverev brings a lot of passion to the court
Zverev brings a lot of passion to the court

4. Alexander Zverev (GER) 

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In July of last year Zverev exploded onto the scene out of pretty much nowhere at an ATP 500 tournament in his home city of Hamburg. He triumphed over numerous Top 100 stars like Mikhail Youzhny, Tobias Kamke and Santiago Giraldo to become the first 17-year-old to reach the quarterfinals in an ATP 500 tournament since Rafael Nadal in 2004. Also, that win over Youzhny made him the first 17-year-old to defeat a Top 20 player in over 10 years. All of that from being given a wildcard.

Since then he has not looked back, jumping over 300 ATP Emirates rankings to number 129 in the world and becoming one of the most gutsy and tough to beat player known on the tour. Could he be Germany’s first big success in tennis since Boris Becker?

3. Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS)

This exciting teenager has caught many people’s eyes for his never say die attitude and his ability to outlast even the most toughest of opponents. The 6ft 5in Aussie broke through on the junior scene after receiving a wildcard into the Boys singles at the Australian Open in January of 2013. On home soil he managed to reach the final, losing to compatriot Nick Kyrgois. At the end of that same year, he also managed to reach the final of the US Open Boys singles falling to Borna Coric that time.

Since making the transition onto the men’s tour, the 18-year-old has reached number 108 in the world and has impressed at Grand Slam level, reaching the Australian Open 2nd round twice in consecutive years. In 2015 he put out number 11 seed Ernests Gulbis in a gruelling 5 set encounter, with the final set finishing 8-6 to the Aussie, showing his desire that he possesses to outlast the best of players.

2. Borna Coric (CRO)

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Coric has already had a career that most retired players would be jealous of. In the short space of 5 months the Croat defeated Andy Murray, Ernests Gulbis and Rafael Nadal. He has been recognised from the highest of people for his achievements, winning the 2014 ATP Star of Tomorrow award presented at the ATP World Tours Finals at the O2 arena in London. As well as an award, Coric has received high praise from top players including Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.

Since joining the ATP Tour he has astonishingly rose to world number 59 and has become a regular quarter and semi finalist in ATP 250 and ATP 500 events. He has also started to get through the opening rounds at Masters 1000 events, most recently Indian Wells and Miami which is something that some of the other contenders on this list struggle to do. His sharpness around the court and his powerful shots have made him one of the toughest players in the Top 100 to beat.

IMG_20150401_214342
Kyrgios is usually seen with brightly coloured headphones

1. Nick Kyrgios (AUS)

You must be thinking that it must take something rather special to beat Borna Coric to number one, and you’d be thinking correct. This part-Greek part-Malaysian Australian born young man, has caught the eye of everyone associated with tennis,  whether it was before his famous fourth-round Wimbledon victory over Rafael Nadal or not. That win was the trigger his rapidly growing career needed to propel him into the world’s top 100. What stands him out from the rest is his presence on court. He strolls around the court with something that some people see as confidence, others see as swagger and others see as arrogance.

He is a character that divides many but no one can argue against the fact that he is an unbelievable talent with a vast array of unorthodox shots with his most memorable being, the foward-facing tweener-dropshot against Nadal which exploded social media and gained over 1 million views on Youtube. It was described by David Polkinghorne from The Canberra Times as “freakish” and “audacious”.

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That match was probably not the match he’d remember his 2014 Wimbledon experience by, you’d be surprised to hear. In the second round he faced 13th seed Richard Gasquet, who like Kyrgios was formerly the world’s best junior, and played the match of his life. With the Frenchman two sets to love, many of the crowd left and presumed it was to be a routine 3 setter. Oh how wrong they were. Showing his ability to never give up and keeping fighting for every ball, the Canberra native fought back to level the match at two sets all. Then in the final set he plucked out some of the most outrageous shots and out rallied one of the most resilient players on the tour, taking it 8-6.

Since then, Nick has reached world number 37 in the ATP Emirates rankings and has got to the third round at the US Open and the quarter finals on home soil at the Australian open.

To think that all of this could have so nearly not have happened. At the age of 14 he was made to make a big decision. That decision was to either: continue playing basketball to national level, or take up tennis. That’s right, you did read that correctly. He only started playing tennis when he was 14. Surely its only a matter of time before we see him in the Top 20 and maybe even in the Top 10 in subsequent years.

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