This year, the ATP launched its new “Next Generation” campaign to highlight the group of talented young players emerging on the ATP World Tour. The ATP loosely defines the term “Next Generation” as any player aged 21 or under, ranked within the Top 200 of the Emirates ATP Rankings. With Wimbledon getting underway, the ATP’s Next Generation will hope to make a major breakthrough at the sport’s most prestigious tournament.
Here are the #NextGen players to look out for at this year’s Championships:
6. Yoshihito Nishioka (Japan, 20 years old)
Many have yet to familiarize themselves with this young Japanese prodigy, but Yoshihito Nishioka is a player you won’t soon forget. Standing at just 5’7” tall, Nishioka is one of the shortest players on tour, but he’s able to grind out wins with his superb craftiness and consistent groundstrokes. His game is very similar to that of former World No. 1 Marcelo Rios, and it’s no surprise that Rios was his idol growing up.
Nishioka has been hovering outside the Top 100 for a while now, so he had to qualify at Wimbledon this year. Unfortunately, he didn’t score the luckiest section of the main draw, as he opens up against Sergiy Stakhovsky, an experienced grass courter. The 20-year-old did lose to Stakhovsky in the qualifying tournament at Halle a couple weeks ago, however Stakhovsky is now recovering from a back injury, so don’t completely count out the young gun in this encounter. His young body might just outlast that of the aging Stakhovsky.
5. Borna Coric (Croatia, 19 years old)
Borna Coric has been on tour for a while now, but he has yet to record a big win at a slam. He’s scored wins over both Nadal and Murray at ATP 500 tournaments, and he’s reached two tour-level finals, but his problem is that he seems to lack the weapons and firepower of some of the other young guns. He’s often been compared to baseline grinders such as Gilles Simon. That being said, Gilles Simon is a former top 10 player and Grand Slam quarterfinalist, and Coric could be on a similar path. His results on grass are rather unimpressive so far; he’s 2-4 in grass court matches in his career. He did however score a five-set win over Stakhovsky in the first round of Wimbledon last year.
Coric is unseeded this year, and like Nishioka, he didn’t exactly get lucky with his draw. He opens up against the 23rd seed and fellow Croatian, Ivo Karlovic. Frankly, a win looks unlikely for Coric here. If he can record a win against Dr. Ivo on grass, it will be a huge boost for his confidence. As Coric’s career seems to be stalling somewhat, it will be interesting to see how he performs this week.
4. Kyle Edmund (Great Britain, 21 years old)
After Andy Murray, Kyle Edmund looks to be Britain’s next hope for a great player. Equipped with a solid serve and a booming forehand, Edmund plays an aggressive, one-two punch game, and as a result he’s a good fit for grass. The 21-year-old had a great run at the Queen’s Club this year, where he reached his first ATP 500 quarterfinal — also his first quarterfinal on grass — and took a set off of Andy Murray before ultimately losing in three sets. Edmund now sits at a career high ranking of 68, and he’ll hope to bring his best tennis at SW19.
Edmund opens up against Frenchman Adrian Mannarino. Mannarino is ranked slightly higher than Edmund, but this is a very winnable match. With the British crowd firmly behind him, expect Kyle Edmund to charge into the second round. Sadly for Edmund, that’s where it gets slightly tricky, as he’s set to face Novak Djokovic (provided that Djokovic gets past James Ward). Now, nobody’s predicting that Edmund is at the level to beat Djokovic, but taking a set off the World No. 1 might not be out of the question. And hey, it’s Wimbledon; anything can happen on these hallowed courts.
3. Taylor Fritz (USA, 18 years old)
Taylor Fritz has enjoyed a meteoric rise to stardom over the past year. After winning the US Open Junior tournament in 2015, Fritz broke through on the Challenger tour, winning 3 titles between October and January. Then, in February, the young American broke through on the main tour, when he reached the final in Memphis and became the youngest American to reach a tour-level final since Michael Chang in 1989. Fritz possesses a massive serve and a deadly forehand, and he showed just how well those shots work on grass when he took a set off of Roger Federer in Stuttgart this month.
At 18 years of age, Fritz is the youngest player in the draw this year, but he’s dangerous. He opens up against fourth seed Stan Wawrinka, and it’s no secret that grass is not the Stanimal’s favourite hunting ground. It’s always hard to predict when a young player will have their first big run at a slam, but this is a solid chance for Fritz. Wawrinka has been in questionable form all season, and the Swiss lost his only grass court match of the year at the Queen’s Club last week. Whether Fritz seizes his opportunity or cracks under the pressure, y0u’ll want to check him out regardless, as he could very well be the the future of American tennis.
2. Nick Kyrgios (Australia, 21 years old)
Love him or hate him, Nick Kyrgios is still pretty good at playing tennis. Ever since his memorable run to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2014, the Aussie has been steadily rising. He won his first ATP title this year at Marseille in February, and reached his first Masters 1000 semifinal in March. The highlight of this year for Kyrgios, however, has arguably been his consistency. On top of upsetting many players ranked above him, he’s also only lost to two players ranked below him.
At this year’s Wimbledon, Kyrgios was lucky enough to score a top 16 seed, so he’ll avoid facing a higher-ranked opponent until the fourth round. Luckily for viewers, though, Kyrgios’s draw gets interesting from the the get-go. The young Australian could potentially face Czech wildcard Radek Stepanek, the ever-entertaining Dustin Brown, and grass-court specialist Feliciano Lopez, before meeting Andy Murray in the round of 16. No matter what happens to Nick Kyrgios during this fortnight, this section of the draw is one to keep an eye on.
1. Alexander “Sascha” Zverev (Germany, 19 years old)
Finally, we have the German Wunderkind, Alexander Zverev. Last year, Zverev was playing Challengers to break into the Top 100, and he played in his first Grand Slam main draw at Wimbledon 2015. This year, Zverev has been a force on the main tour and he comes to the All England Club as a seeded player. Having reached his first ATP 500 final on the grass courts of Halle this month, defeating Roger Federer along the way, Alexander Zverev’s ranking now rests at a career high of 28. As a result, he’ll be brimming with confidence coming into this year’s Championships.
Since Zverev is seeded 24th, his draw is relatively clear until the third round, where he’ll likely face 10th seed Tomas Berdych. Berdych has had a poor year by his standards, losing consistently to players like Kyrgios, Raonic, and Goffin. It seems that the Czech No. 1 is starting to pass his Top 10 torch onto some of the younger players on tour, and perhaps Zverev will be the next to take Berdych down. If Zverev does pull off the upset, he could potentially renew his budding rivalry with Dominic Thiem in the fourth round. He’s showed what he can do at the smaller tournaments; now it’s a question of whether he can do the same at a major.