Some of the ATP’s rising talents enjoyed a fruitful week in October, with three titles going to three players with bright futures ahead of an already impressive present. Karen Khachanov prevailed in front of a home crowd in Moscow, while Stefanos Tsitsipas and Kyle Edmund claimed their first titles in Stockholm and Antwerp respectively. For a season that has been dominated by familiar faces, this success for younger prospects may reinvigorate the ATP tour as fans begin to look forward to 2019’s Australian Open.
Jack Sock can testify to the advantages of ending the season in strong form, with the American’s surprise title at the Paris Masters in 2017 propelling him to the ATP World Tour Finals. Sock dealt with the pressure of the big stage admirably, reaching the semi-finals and entering 2018 with high hopes. Sock will not look back too fondly upon most of the year, with the American probably keen to avoid looking at 2018’s race to London at https://live-tennis.eu/en/atp-race.
Despite Sock’s cautionary tale, Edmund, Khachanov and Tsitsipas will head into 2019 emboldened by this impressive end to their season. Sooner or later, a new Grand Slam champion will emerge. While Novak Djokovic’s return to world-beating form is a joy to watch, fans of the ATP Tour will be keen to see new contenders go toe-to-toe with the Serbian legend.
Djokovic will head to the Australian Open as a strong favorite. At his best, he looks unbeatable, but in the crucible of a major tournament perhaps a new star will be born. Edmund starts with the best chance of October’s heroes, with the British No. 1 at odds of 40/1 at https://www.paddypower.com/tennis to improve on his semi-final showing this year to take the 2019 Australian Open title. Winning his first ATP title in Antwerp is a significant milestone in Edmund’s development, but now he needs to kick on to the next level.
It may be that Tsitsipas is the one with the best chance of becoming a Grand Slam champion, although 2019 might be too soon for the Greek. Tsitsipas is a couple of years behind Edmund and Khachanov in terms of age, but his ascent this season has been remarkable. He reached his first ATP finals this year, losing in Barcelona and Toronto to Rafael Nadal on both occasions. Competing against a player of Nadal’s calibre in that kind of environment could provide the ideal stepping stone to raising his game in a Slam.
Khachanov has three ATP 250 titles to his name, but the Russian has yet to break out in a Slam in the manner of Edmund. While Khachanov has an impressive array of weapons at his disposal to overpower his opponents, he has been unable to find the subtlety needed to overcome the top players. Looking at his head-to-head record against top 5 opponents via www.tennisabstract.com uncovers that Khachanov has a 0-9 record when taking on the world’s best players.
Making that jump from contender to champion is a monumental task. Alexander Zverev has a collection of Masters titles but the German still finds making a mark on a Slam notoriously difficult. Khachanov’s consistency on tour and Tsitsipas’ fearlessness borne from youth will make them difficult opponents for any player in 2019’s first Slam. Yet it may be Edmund who can improve on his semi-final last year, with that first ATP title banishing questions over fitness and mentality in big matches.