Tennis Prose



10 Biggest Underachievers In Tennis

Every tennis pro who gets an ATP point or reaches the top tier of the ATP or WTA is a human miracle, considering how deep and vast the pool of competition of countless aspirants and strivers is. But some players fall short of the potential they once showed. In no particular order here are my unofficial ten biggest underachievers in pro tennis…

Felix Auger Aliassime – The Canadian was no. 6 and has won 4 titles last year after losing in his first seven finals but now he’s ranked 12 and has been irrelevant all year at age 22. Plenty of time to right the ship but the NEXT GENS are coming up fast.

Denis Shapovalov – the 24 year old is ranked 27 now from a career high of 10 in 2020. But there is a sense the lefthander will never put it all together and fulfill the sensational potential he first showed as a dynamic 18 year old reaching the semis of Canadian Open in 2017. Shapo has won one career ATP title in singles.

Grigor Dimitrov – Baby Federer, now 32, was once ranked 3 in the world. The winner of eight ATP titles is now ranked 26.

Nick Kyrgios – The 2022 Australian Open doubles champion and Wimbledon finalist has won seven ATP singles titles and was ranked as high as 13. But at 28 time is running out for the spectacular Australian currently ranked 31.

Hyeon Chung – Injuries have ravaged the career of the Korean who once played a Grand Slam semifinal in Australia. Chung has returned to ATP competition in the last 8 months but has been unable to win any matches of note on the Challenger circuit.

Coco Gauff – Cocomania has quieted. Though she’s 7 in the world in singles, Gauff hasn’t lived up to the early hype which was overblown by the tennis media. This week the teen endured another crushing loss 64 60 to Alexandrova. If Coco can connect with a world class coach with Grand Slam experience, she can surely win multiple major titles. But are her coach parents willing to lose control of the process and the credit that would come with success?

Belinda Bencic – The 26 year old Olympic gold medalist still hasn’t won a Grand Slam title though she is ranked 14 and always a threat if she can find her A plus game when it matters most.

Elina Svitolina – The Ukrainian baseliner with the perfect technique seems a superior player to several women who have won Grand Slams but the 28 year old ranked 72 now still has a few more years to solve the puzzle.

Leylah Fermandez – The 2021 US Open finalist is just 20 but her career seems to be going in the wrong direction. Mediocre results since her magical New York run have dropped her singles ranking to 96.

Sofia Kenin – The American has won a Grand Slam title in Australia and reached Roland Garros finals at 20. But then she crashed out of the top 400. Determined to regain her lost status, the 24 year old is currently ranked 127. Though I concede it may be an unforced error to call any Grand Slam champion an underachiever.

Also: Jack Sock. Bernard Tomic.

NEXT: The 10 biggest overachievers…

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  • Bill McGill · June 22, 2023 at 2:49 pm

    Maybe Fognini. For a guy that spent that long at the top, that had the kind of speed he once had and the talent he still has, 9 career titles, almost all 250s (1 M1000 at Monte Carlo and 1 500 at Hamburg) is not a great result. Others might have had lower expectations of him because he was 5 10 and lacked a service weapon, but I thought he could have had a Muster-like career on the clay and you can’t blame it all on Nadal. He lost a lot of finals to good but beatable players like Gilles Simon, Robredo and PCB and quite a few to players he absolutely should have beaten like Klijan, Andrej Martin and Dzumhur.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 22, 2023 at 5:37 pm

    Bill Fognini is a super talent but I don’t remember there ever being great expectations for him as a junior or young pro, he was always another flashy Italian who like his idol Marcelo Rios, was more of a showman who only produced tennis magic on several random occasions not consistently like the ultra elites do. When he was inspired motivated and the biorhythms were right, Fog could beat anyone anytime. But he could also struggle through five sets vs Teymuraz Gabashvili on court 10 at the US Open. I still say that Fognini is still one of the best value tickets in the ATP, he just happened to play in the toughest era in history.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 22, 2023 at 6:19 pm

  • Matt Segel · June 22, 2023 at 9:03 pm

    Shapo is my number one on this list. He has/had so much potential. The winners were outrageous but I watched a match a few years ago, maybe Zverev on clay, and he literally could not hit a backhand return. Very frustrating to watch. Also the serve is kind of like a show off serve. Very difficult looking and a lot of doubles at bad times. He seems very stubborn and seems to believe in the idea that when he gets hot he’ll be fine. I am most disappointed with his career so far. Felix is a close second but for some reason I think his game is just limited. He is kind of like a more athletic Berdych, not very creative but massive power. Berretini is soon to be added. Chung is not really fair. Hurkacz is showing some signs of making this list. Coric could also be added, he was a very promising 17 year old. Thiem did win a slam, but since then… not good. Zverev…I would say yes because he has multiple grand slam talent, not too late, but the clock is ticking.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 22, 2023 at 9:57 pm

    Matt, maybe the Djokovic Nadal effect is to reduce great players into underachievers. But on the flipside, there are several notable OVER achievers also. Gasquet may also be considered by some to be a disappointment though I think his nature was never to be the best, he just doesn’t have that big ego and dynamic strong personality, he’s more like a pure player who just loves the purity of playing tennis. I know some people like this on my level, very talented but not driven to compete and win though they are very talented players. Monfils also was a no. 1 junior but he never really threatened to win a major title, came close a couple of times. Querrey also I thought had the weapons to be an elite player but maybe not the obsessive drive.

  • catherine · June 23, 2023 at 4:18 am

    Fernandez plays lots of doubles, at which she’s quite successful. Maybe if she dropped the doubles for a while she could improve her singles.

    Bit too soon to say but we may have to add another Canadian to that list: Bianca YouKnowWho in spite of 2019.

    I can’t see the player I saw then.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 23, 2023 at 7:53 am

    Catherine, the doubles is supposed to help Leylah’s singles, doubles success is supposed to inspire and provoke singles success as proven by Kuznetsova, Stosur, etc. Bibi peaked early, then struggled, then got super fit but the big results didn’t come so now she has confidence issues, is my view of her career.

  • Matt Segel · June 23, 2023 at 10:04 am

    600 wins for Gasquet is a testament to talent, longevity and grit. I think he has amazing tennis skills but was not blessed with the same level of physical talent and the big four were blessed with both. Plus I don’t think he wanted to put in the physical fitness effort to make up the deficit. I think he has had a fantastic career. A little bit like a more durable version of David Nalbandian.

    Monfils has also had a great career and did end up winning a number of titles(he had a very bad record for a while in finals). He had all the tools but maybe lacked that killer instinct. But in the end he has had a great career, as did Tsonga, Berdych, Ferrer.


  • Scoop Malinowski · June 23, 2023 at 11:35 am

    Agree, Gasquet has had a fantastic career and it’s still going strong now at 37, he’s still top 50 and posting some very good wins. Still loves to play. Gasquet, Monfils, Nalbandian, Tsonga, Berd, Ferrer, these are the Todd Martin, Kucera, Henman, Rusedski, Alex Corretjas of this era.

  • catherine · June 23, 2023 at 2:15 pm

    Slightly off-topic but maybe not – a lot of discussion in various places about the generally poor attendance at WTA matches over the past year or so. Many theories
    : lack of superstar (s), many players from Eastern Europe who are relatively unknown and unfortunately tangled up in current conflict, and failure of promising players to develop. Some leave the game entirely – eg Barty, Osaka, Anasimova, Kontaveit.

    Who won Wimbledon last year ? I asked a few people with a casual interest in the game and none of them knew.

    Is tennis losing popularity ? Or is it the WTA isn’t delivering ? I’ve also seen ATP matches with sparse crowds, which surprised me.

  • Bill McGill · June 23, 2023 at 2:52 pm

    If the baseline is expectations of the player as a junior, Gael Monfils is surely the biggest under-achiever. He was the no. 1 ranked junior, won 3 boys grand slam championships. He also won a title and moved into the top 50 almost immediately after joining the Tour. He won 11 titles and got to no. 6 in the world, but there was a time early in his career where I thought he (and Tsonga, for that matter) would be regular features in GS finals and semis. At the end of the day, Monfils never won a major, a Masters 1000, or even made a major final. He made two major semi finals (one at RG, one at US Open). He never even managed to win 2 titles in a year until 2020 when he had one of his best seasons in the covid shortened year and won Rotterdam and Montpellier.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 23, 2023 at 9:37 pm

    Catherine, pickleball is exploding here, it could be affecting tennis attendance at some tournaments or it will soon in the future. Good thing is Djokovic’s popularity is expanding and he’s saving the sport. The wta is a mess, no interesting stars other than Hsieh, just a lot of monotonous baseliners who all conceal their real personalities and only show a perfect image. Few exceptions, Ostapenko is a breath of fresh air.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 23, 2023 at 9:41 pm

    Bill, agree Monfils seemed destined for more but I think he lacks the obsession to be the best, he’s content being ranked where he is, never gets upset or angry about a bad loss or bad choke or bad miss, just loves to play and perform and enjoy the sport than trying to be the kingpin.

  • catherine · June 24, 2023 at 6:37 am

    Scoop – it’s funny, BJK was very into players showing their personalities when the women’s tour began. She knew that would increase their appeal, which was pretty low at the time, and attract TV. Unfortunately many women seem rather reluctant to do this because they then tend to attract criticism – imagine a female Kyrgios:)

    As far as actual play goes, there’s no doubt the overall standard of the WTA is much higher than years ago, when you’d have two or three at the top of the game and then a big falling off. So it’s not the technical skill that’s a reason for spectators looking elsewhere, if they are.

    And at the same time we’ve also now got multiple ways of watching tennis which doesn’t actually involve attending matches. So empty seats doesn’t neccessarily mean lack of interest.

    The WTA coasted along with the Williamses for years. Now that’s over the whole game may need a rethink. I’m not terribly in favour of a combined tour, except GSs and majors, because you end up with problems. I’m wondering whether that players’ association is involving itself. Isn’t Djokovic a member ?

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 24, 2023 at 8:05 am

    The WTA had it’s greatest rivalry ever Seles vs Graf and bungled it. Fred Stolle said during the 1995 US Open final “this is the best thing to happen to women’s tennis in a long long time…” WTA hasn’t reached that height ever since. It’s a fair product now but it’s clearly riding the coattails of the men’s game.

  • catherine · June 28, 2023 at 2:42 am

    Bianca lóses again – SS in Bad Homburg to a Russian sounding player based in Spain. Don’t know anything about her.

    I fear Bianca will follow Bouchard into oblivion.

    BTW – lots more stuff these days about surfaces. Players talk as if they get spooked by grass. Years ago a pro played on anything. If you were good you won, if you lost you didn’t blame the surface.

    Re Bad Homburg – Angie was quite involved in this tournament when it started, being in her home state of Schleswig-Holstein but she doesn’t seem to have a presence there now.
    I think it’s very unlikely we’ll see her on court again.

    Maybe she doesn’t want comparisons with Lisicki who’s still playing.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 28, 2023 at 8:45 am

    Catherine, Andreescu is losing now repeatedly to no names I never heard of before. She’s done. Kerber seems in no rush back like the ATP players all try to rush back after injury asap. The top women’s players just want out of the show – Barty, Kerber, Konta, Muguruza. Bouchard is the exception, she’s trying everything to get back but can’t win matches anymore. The atp and wta cultures and atmospheres are not the same. Pretty obvious why the wta wants to marry the atp but not the other way around.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 28, 2023 at 12:55 pm

    Hsieh wins again in 2R.

  • catherine · June 28, 2023 at 1:51 pm

    I suppose getting an injury is a bit different from having a baby.But women players find more things to distract them as they get older. You’re right – the cultures are different, can’t see that changing much.

    As I said before on another thread, apart from the GSs and maybe major issues affecting the game I’m quite happy with separate circuits. Works ok. All we need are good women players to stick around a few more years. Like Hsieh.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 28, 2023 at 4:07 pm

    Hsieh is a tennis freak or wizard, she is totally committed to tennis still loves it, loves everything about it, amazing pure player.

  • catherine · June 29, 2023 at 2:44 pm

    Wozniaki wants to make a comeback. After two children and with rheumatoid arthritis I’d advise against it.

    Swiatek beat Blinkova in SS. Moving well. I like that ON outfit or whatever it’s called. Slimline really suits her.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 29, 2023 at 3:59 pm

    Catherine, I believe she had two babies, but never did buy the arthritis phooey. Guarantee there will be no mentions of the arthritis during the comeback.

  • catherine · June 30, 2023 at 2:38 am

    I wonder if Caroline was watching her fellow Pole Swiatek in Bad Homburg. She might reconsider.

    At 3.54 in the YTube highlights v Blinkova Iga hits one of the most amazing shots I’ve ever seen. It’s an angled bh return and no one can work out how she’s done it. No slo mo unfortunately. Came out of the blue. The commentator just said ‘wow’.

    Iga can’t play on grass ? She can play on a ploughed field.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 30, 2023 at 8:26 am

    Catherine, yes the propaganda is Iga can’t play on grass eventhough she won junior Wimbledon at I believe age 15. Grass may be her best surface though she likes to pretend otherwise.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 30, 2023 at 8:31 am

    Catherine, it was a forehand slapshot up the line winner at 3:54. Amazing improvisation shot off a good body serve. Iga looks unstoppable and very driven to win Wimbledon, she’s my pick off these highlights.

  • catherine · June 30, 2023 at 1:02 pm

    Scoop – thanks for unpicking that shot. As you say, the improvisation is something special. Body and mind in perfect sync. Wish I’d seen the real thing.

    Unfortunately Iga had to give a WO today – sounds like mild food poisoning or a bug.

    Considering how the players live, moving around in a big group and quite close together and eating in restaurants a lot, I’m only surprised more don’t come down with GI infections.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 30, 2023 at 1:04 pm

    Or it sounds like she doesn’t want to waste any more time and energy for a title that means nothing in the big picture. I predicted a QF or SF wrist or elbow ache, not a belly ache – or phantom belly ache. ) We need to see a slow mo instant replay of that improv shot by Iga, certainly worthy of deeper study. Iga is become the kind of supreme player who could invent a new shot for the sport. Maybe that was it.



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