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Hoping for Young Stars to Flourish at the US Open
Wednesday, 08/01/2018
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FutureStars.jpg

On 8th July 1985, Boris Becker won his first Wimbledon title. The German was aged just 17 years and 228 days at the time. A few months later, Stefan Edberg, aged 19 years and 324 days, won the Australian Open. They were among several stars of the era, including Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilander and Michael Chang, who all won Grand Slams as teenagers.
 
Compare that to the age of the winners of the three Grand Slams played so far in 2018: Roger Federer (Australian Open, 36 years-old), Rafael Nadal (French Open, 32-years-old) and Novak Djokovic (Wimbledon, 31-years-old).

Nadal only ‘teen’ winner in 21st century
Men’s tennis is no longer as ‘teen-friendly’ as it used to be, with five of the top ten in the ATP rankings in their 30s and not one teenager in the top 20. There are, of course, exceptions in the modern game, with Nadal winning his maiden French Open at 19.

However, for tennis to flourish, we must see more young players start to challenge those who have held on to the top sports for a decade or more now. It’s not going to be easy though, especially when you consider the likes of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer seem to be fully fit at the moment.
 
Indeed, perhaps unsurprisingly, that trio lead the current US Open odds with 888sport, with Djokovic the favorite at 11/4 and both Federer and Nadal coming in at 7/2. Indeed, the only ‘young’ player sitting towards the top of the odds is 21-year-old Alexander Zverev coming in at 9/1.

Zverev still learning to manage Slams
Zverev seems to be on a career trajectory where it becomes a question of when, and not if, he will win a Grand Slam. Still, his record in Slams is not great, with his best performance being the quarter-final of this year’s French Open. He has never got passed the second round at Flushing Meadows.
 
Borna Coric, who beat Zverev in the second round at the US Open last year, is another who is being touted for great things. However, he also has a relatively weak record in the Slams, with that third round in the US Open and French Open 2017 being his best performance to date. You can find the Croatian at 100/1 to triumph at the US Open next month.

Shapovalov unlucky in 2017 US Open
Denis Shapovalov, who is the only teenager in the world’s top 30, is perhaps best placed to do something in New York. He reached the fourth round last year, losing in straight sets (all tie-breaks) to Pablo Carreno Busta. Shapovalov is 40/1 to win the US Open, odds that suggest sports books are taking the young Canadian very seriously.
But, on a whole, there has been a modest impact on the top end of tennis from young players. Sure, Zverev has been successful in picking up eight ranking titles in his short career, but the Slams have been a different matter.

None of this is supposed to criticize young players. Indeed, it simply about highlighting the fact that the era of the teenager at the very top in the mould of Becker or Borg seems to have disappeared. It would be pleasant to see some young challengers to the crowns of Federer and Nadal before they call time on their careers. Perhaps we will get to see some green shoots in New York in a few weeks.