Who Will Be The First Player to Break Through and Win His First Slam?

If you look at the ATP top-20 ranked players as of this weekend, 15 men on the list have not yet won a slam. Of those 15 men, only 7 are 25-years-old or younger: Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem, Borna Coric, Kyle Edmund, Stefano Tsitsipas, Karen Khachavov and Danil Medvedev. Only three of these players, Thiem, Zverev and Edmund, have ever reached a slam quarter-finals with Thiem having reached two Roland Garros semis and one finals and Edmund having reached the 2018 Australian Open semis.

Of the players 25-and-under ranked in the 20-40 range, only Lucas Pouille (24), Hyeon Chung (27), Denis Shapovalov (29), and Nick Kyrgios (38), have ever reached as far as a Round of 16 in a slam with Chung having reached a semis and Kyrgios, two quarters. Of these 11 players, I’d have to choose Thiem as having the best chance to break through and win a slam first. Then I think I’d go with Tstisipas, who although he’s only 20, and only just won his first ATP title this past weekend, I think he has the most complete game of the players on this list. Zverev, the highest ranked of these players at no. 5 who has already won three Masters titles and is still only 21 is tempting to choose as is Coric, also only 21, but the Croat has only reached the Round of 16 once in a slam and Zverev only twice.

Of the players 25-and-older who were once touted as slam contenders–and maybe still are–I’d say only Kei Nishikori and Kevin Anderson have a slight chance of pulling one off. The Japanese is now 28 and the South African is 32, but both have been to slam finals, Anderson twice in the past five slams, and both on the right fortnight with the right circuitous draw, still have slim to moderate chances of nabbing slams. Of the other players 25 and older still in the top 50 who were once reputed to be slam contenders, John Isner, Grigor Dimitrov, David Goffin and Milos Raonic, I’d say their ships have sailed and the chances of one of these players winning a slam, all still only 27 except Isner who’s 33, are remote to non-existent. As is Tomas Berdych’s chances at age 33.

Who’s the biggest wildcard not listed in this article to be the first player never to have won a slam to break through and win his first slam, I’d have to go with the 19-year-old Aussie, who continues to amaze, Alex de Minaur.

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  • Jg · October 22, 2018 at 7:27 pm

    I don’t know about grand slams, but Felix will be in the top 20 by end of 2019, he seems to have the complete package and the mindset to win

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 22, 2018 at 8:27 pm

    Tsitsipas will win a major next year or 2020, he will be the next one. If he’s not, I will start the Callum Markowitz fan club.

  • Dan Markowitz · October 22, 2018 at 9:41 pm

    Sounds like Jon that you’re higher on Felix than Shapo. I’m not. I saw their match at the Open and I like Shapo’s talents better than Felix’s. The win over Pouille is now being less touted with the way Pouille has declined as a big time player. It’s interesting how Shapo and Zverev, the hot items player-wise last year, have taken a backseat to The Greek Freak and the Aussie Freak, Kyrgios, isn’t on anyone’s list I talk to to win a slam.

  • Hartt · October 23, 2018 at 7:55 am

    Dan, I hope you are not basing your opinion of Felix on one match. He has a good all-court game, moves well, and will fight to the end, I have seen him turn matches around when he was far behind. He also has good composure on the court.

    At 18, his big weakness is lack of experience, and he can only get that through experience.

    I don’t agree with Jg that Felix will be top 20 by the end of 2019, but I think top 50 is a realistic goal.

  • Chazz · October 23, 2018 at 8:21 am

    I’ll say Coric

  • Dan Markowitz · October 23, 2018 at 8:36 am

    I don’t think Felix will be top 20 by end of 2019 either. Hartt, it’s not the one match I saw, it’s also his record this year, the only two top players he’s beaten are Pouille and Chung. I know he doesn’t turn 19 until August, but other ascending players like Shapo and Zverev and Tsttsi have had better 18 years.

    I think Mmoh is also an interesting candidate on this list.

  • Hartt · October 23, 2018 at 9:38 am

    I was curious how the players you mentioned did as 18 year-olds, so checked it out.

    Shapo did finish the season ranked No. 51, but he only beat 2 top 20 players that season – Rafa and Tsonga.

    Tsitsipas is exactly 2 years older than Felix. When Stefanos was 18 he finished the year ranked No. 210 and did not win against any top 20 player.

    Sascha finished his season ranked No. 83 and his only top 20 win was Anderson.

    So Felix actually stacks up pretty well against these players when they were 18.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 23, 2018 at 10:17 am

    Felix has not hit his breakout period yet, that is coming and it’s coming soon. Tsitsipas was struggling at 18 and then he suddenly started to accelerate with the results last year and he’s sustained it with positive progression. Felix is definitely on his way and he could possible potentially even be better than Tsitsipas, when he gets more experience and confidence. And that is saying a lot as I see Tsitsipas winning many many majors and being no. 1 with even an outside shot at being better than Federer. So tennis is looking great right now. Raonic menawhile has crashed in flames losing to the ancient Jurgen Melzer. Dan’s famous fork might soon take a plunge into the hind quarters of Raonic.

  • Jg · October 23, 2018 at 11:05 am

    I agree with Scoop here, Felix needs another off season to prepare but his game I think is more solid than the others, I think top 20 is realistic, I can see him doing damage in Australia, Indian Wells and the clay court season. Once ( and if) he gets stronger watch out.

  • Hartt · October 23, 2018 at 11:15 am

    Felix is pretty strong already. Have you noticed his legs, and his abs?

    But yes, he can gain a bit of strength. But apparently he is more like 6’4″ than his official 6’3″, so he doesn’t need to grow any taller.

    I would be delighted if Felix made the top 20, but that is a high goal.

  • Hartt · October 23, 2018 at 2:56 pm

    The Tennis Canada site has an interesting interview with Louid Borfiga who, more than anyone, is responsible for the strong Tennis Canada program.

    “Louis Borfiga has been Tennis Canada’s Vice President of High Performance & Athlete Development for more than 12 years. Before that he was at the French Tennis Federation and worked with players such as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils, Gilles Simon, Julien Benneteau and Nicolas Mahut during their formative years.”

    Tom Tebbutt did the interview, and they covered a wide variety of topics,including Canadian players, identifying talented youngsters, the difference between coaching boys and girls, French players, Borfiga’s favourite players to watch (Borg, Monfils, Graf) etc.


  • Scoop Malinowski · October 23, 2018 at 3:17 pm

    I would like to see more hunger and emotional adrenaline and desire from Felix, he has to want it badly, want it MORE than everybody else. Not sure if he has that burning desire, burning obsession to be the best, the almost vicious ruthlessness. He can improve that. But no doubt the talent and the skillset and the foundation for greatness is there.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 23, 2018 at 3:30 pm

    Thanks for sharing that Hartt, very good read. Borfiga said the burning desire was not inherent in the Canadian players but Raonic and Bouchard changed that. It’s important. Borfiga gave a nice respect for Graf. Interesting that he got to 308 in the world despite not being coached till he was 16.

  • Hartt · October 23, 2018 at 6:40 pm

    Scoop, I loved what Borfiga said about Graf, as you said, “nice respect.”

    “And among the women – I think the player I liked to watch was Steffi Graf. For me she was the best player – best athlete, best player and elegance – everything.”

    I also thought what he looks for in a young player, a 12 or 13 year old, was interesting:

    “LB: The first thing would be whether they have athletic ability, whether their technique is relatively good and also sometimes you can tell in a young child whether they really have that desire to play – if they kind of have that look that sparkles. That’s what we’re looking for but it’s always difficult to tell what could happen in the future.”

    “that look that sparkles” says a lot.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 23, 2018 at 8:13 pm

    Yes that Burning desire is so important Hartt, Gasquet does not have that. Many very talented players don’t have it. Hewitt had it. Serena has it. Rafa has it. Young Andy Roddick had it. I hope all the USTA coaches read this interview. Did you read the WTA site interview with Raimon Sluiter coach of Bertens?

  • Dan Markowitz · October 23, 2018 at 9:34 pm

    Burning desire is only really important if a kid as Borfiga says, “has good athletic ability.” Also important, is that the kid isn’t 5-9 or smaller than its obviously very tough to be a big time player. I think of that saying, you can train a mule every day, but it’s still not going to race in the Kentucky Derby.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 24, 2018 at 8:40 am

    Dan, Gaston Gaudio was 5-9, Chang was 5-9, Kohlschreiber is 5-10…

  • catherine · October 24, 2018 at 11:13 am

    In Singapore Kerber bts Osaka in 3 sets – I didn’t see much of it but seemed a good effort from Naomi. I like her new hairstyle.

    Angie can win without occ – obviously.

    I’m not finding Singapore too enthralling – slow court and some tired looking players. Zuhai could be more interesting.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 24, 2018 at 2:01 pm

    One of the more interesting things about Singapore is the return of Capriati to WTA tenis, she is there as a guest. Also there is BJK who Capriati infamously said F*** YOU to at a Fed Cup tie for trying to block her father from being there to coach her. Hopefully their frosty relations are patched up now. Also there is Seles and Tamarine Tanasugarn and Yayuk Basuki.

  • catherine · October 24, 2018 at 2:11 pm

    In Zhuhai there is Steffi 🙂

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 24, 2018 at 3:02 pm

    Steffi went all the way to Zhuhai but not Singapore? Sounds like she did not want to be around some certain former rival player in Singapore who is there.

  • catherine · October 24, 2018 at 6:37 pm

    Steffi presents the trophy in Zhuhai tournament – or she has for the last couple of years. But it’s the kind of thing she’d do – go to the place everyone else isn’t 🙂

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 24, 2018 at 8:16 pm

    I don’t think Steffi would like to go to a big event like WTA finals with Seles there. Seles talked this week about the greatest competitors she played in her career and she mentioned Serena, Chrissie and Navratilova, not even mentioning Graf which speaks volumes. How could she not mention Graf who she had a losing h2h against? They need to bury the hatchet. Who knows, maybe Seles suspects the whole stabbing tragedy to be a possible inside job?

  • catherine · October 25, 2018 at 2:40 am

    I don’t think Seles’ stabbing was an inside job, but I do think Monica has probably wiped it from her mind, or been advised to, and Steffi’s been wiped as well. ‘Let the dead past bury its dead’ etc.

    All those bigwigs are probably in Singapore because it’s the last Finals there. Seems to be no particular reason for them to be around otherwise. They aren’t doing anything. One of the (many) things I hate about the WTA finals – lots of people opening and shutting their mouths. And dressing up. All so girly. A big pyjama party. Costing lots of $$$$$.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 25, 2018 at 8:14 am

    Well Catherine, they invite the legends who want to go, it’s like a high school reunion for them to see their old rivals and competitors and share stories and catch up and maybe rekindle or kindle friendships. The fans love to see the legends too, they have watched them so much on TV, many hours of their matches that they feel like distant family. It’s like seeing a long long lost aunt or cousin. Having legends there makes the overall event even better. Yes they do try to overdress the current players and it always looks so contrived and over the top. Many of the players are unrecognizable. I couldn’t even tell it was Bertens in teh group shot before the tournament, took me two days to realize it was Bertens.

  • catherine · October 25, 2018 at 8:48 am

    Scoop – I may be sentimental but I prefer the ‘legends’ as I remember them. It’s always a shock to realise they grow old too. I wonder if they invite Steffi – I’ve only ever seen her in Zuhai which is a couple of weeks away I think, and then she’s there on her own. Somehow I can’t see her at the Finals kind of re-union. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Just maybe not her scene.

    The competing players should be asked to pose in the clothes they’d normally wear. We might see some surprises but I bet Woz’d be dressed and made up to the nines 🙂

  • catherine · October 25, 2018 at 1:15 pm

    I’ve just read that Wozniaki has been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, not a great condition to have and unfortunately it tends to attack young people. So I hope her career isn’t cut short and medication can control her symptoms until she decides to retire.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 25, 2018 at 1:45 pm

    Wonder why she waited till this week to drop this bombshell? It’s sure going to get her a lot of attention.

  • Hartt · October 25, 2018 at 1:49 pm

    The WTA site has an extensive piece on Woz’s rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis. Obviously it isn’t something you would wish on anyone, but it sounds like Woz is doing everything in her power to cope with it.

  • catherine · October 25, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    Scoop – she had to say it sometime. Rheumatoid-arthritis is a very serious auto-immune disease for which there is no cure and it can cause incredible pain as well as affecting vital organs in the body, heart eg. In Caroline’s case it will certainly end her career. Luckily she has her marriage to look forward to and a supportive husband.

    I’m sure Caroline didn’t have attention seeking on her mind when she announced her condition.

    (I’ve known a couple of people who suffered from it.)

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 25, 2018 at 7:46 pm

    I know a girl who has it and she suffered but coped, she was in her 20s too. She was not able to play with it. Can’t see how Wozniacki can play with it. Did she miss any matches or tournaments since the diagnosis? If not that seems odd.

  • catherine · October 26, 2018 at 2:01 am

    I can’t see any reason why Caroline should say she has rheumatoid arthritis if she hasn’t actually got it. The condition fluctuates and is in its early stages – it’s clear that in her case she’s been able to continue playing so far and Singapore is the last tournament for her this year.

    She seems quite positive and upbeat and that’s going to help her but I’d be surprised if she carries on competitive tennis after next season. There are new drugs being developed these days but they don’t cure – maybe lessen the symptoms.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 26, 2018 at 8:49 am

    Wait. Wozniacki won a title recently in Beijing with this affliction. How is that possible? Something isn’t adding up here. And why is Venus the only athlete in the history of sports to be afflicted with Sjogren’s Syndrome? And what happened to Mardy Fish’s heart issues and anxiety issues? Why no more updates?

  • catherine · October 26, 2018 at 9:44 am

    Scoop – there’s no conspiracy here, believe me. Who’d make up a story about such a serious condition ? And why ? Rheumatoid arthritis is one of those auto-immune illnesses which fluctuates, good days, bad days, periods of remission. Woz has been on medication since after W’don. So no great mystery she could win Beijing. She may be able to deal with pain. She’s young and strong. The bad thing is, she’s got it for life, whether it’s active or in abeyance.

  • catherine · October 26, 2018 at 10:10 am

    Stephens bts Kerber 6-3 6-3 and sends her home. Not a classic match but Angie’s 38 UEs to 29 Stephen’s, plus 18 to 25 winners tell the story. Also Angie’s weak serve didn’t help. It’s the old Kerber back again.

    Angie might have lost weight. Her face looks gaunt.

    We’ll learn next week about her new coach I suppose. But we’ll probably never learn the truth about the Defenestration of Fisette.

    BTW – Osaka retired v Bertens. Naomi needs a good long rest and some time away from the spotlight.

  • catherine · October 26, 2018 at 11:26 am

    According to stats I saw Angie last beat Sloane in 2012. Since then it’s been one way traffic. Angie didn’t play badly here, she just rolled out the same game and Stephens is well used to it.

    I saw a dark bearded guy in Angie’s box all week – is he the new coach in training ? Mind you, there was a whole bunch of guys – maybe an audition ?

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 26, 2018 at 11:44 am

    Maybe Kerber has a Safin like Harem?

  • catherine · October 26, 2018 at 1:40 pm

    Well, her box might as well have been empty for all the help they were, Harem or no.

    And Angie cut a lonely figure sitting by the court wishing she had a coach to call on as yet another defeat to Sloane Stephens slid past.

    Waste of time her coming to Singapore.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 26, 2018 at 10:15 pm

    Gotta wonder if all the players really want to be at the WTF, end of the year, so far away from most of the world in Singapore.

  • catherine · October 27, 2018 at 1:57 am

    Well they’re going to be even further away next year in Shenzen.

    Pretty meaningless title IMO. I feel the same about the ATP Finals.

  • catherine · October 27, 2018 at 8:11 am

    Svitolina bts Bertens in 3 – some interesting stats: Bertens 63 UEs (youtube followers were betting Kiki would hit the century in UEs) Elena 36. Kiki hit 41 winners and Elena 12. Why waste energy over winners ?

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 27, 2018 at 9:11 am

    It only really matter if the no. 1 ranking is at stake, otherwise it’s a glorified exo.



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