Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps the first week of the 2019 Australian Open—in some way.
You’ll forgive us for sparing you the latest in the bitter war of words currently being waged inside of Australian tennis as there is actual tennis played, excellent one at that, and we’ll rather focus on that.
While we await a future date to give you our thoughts on the Bernard Tomic-Lleyton Hewitt civil war at a later time, we’re happy to report that the main takeaway from this first week of the 2019 Australian Open is, as much as anything else, that the kids are all right.
Over the first seven days of this first major tournament of the year, many of the same usual suspects dominated and were in the news for their stellar play—but not all of them. And their absence left the door wide open for some of the youngest players in both draws to step up and make the most of their chance.
Here are the new generation of players who showed up at the Australian Open and proved to everyone why there’s still much, much hope even once our current crop of champions have retired.
-Career highlight: Making the 2018 Rogers Cup final, where he lost against Rafael Nadal.
-Analysis: The young Greek is a versatile and capable player who can play on all surfaces and with very few holes in his game already at his age. He plays an aggressive baseline game, which sometimes works against him when he’s not on his game: there’s a fine line between a winner and an unforced error, and Stefanos Tsitsipas has sometimes trouble walking it.
-TD;LR: The 1b to Alexander Zverev’s 1a in men’s tennis for the next decade.
-Career highlight: Winning the 2018 Wuhan Open, unless it’s leading Belarus to the 2017 Fed Cup final.
-Analysis: The 2018 season was the Aryna Sabalenka coming-out party as she built upon excellent team results at the Fed Cup and captured her first two career titles to go along with another two finals nods. Tall and powerful, Sabalenka has a strong serve and knows she hits heavy and difficult shots for opponents to handle: she’ll look for winners early in points, even at the cost of some extra unforced errors.
-TD;LR: A tall and extremely talented player who hits the ball harder than anyone else on tour.
-Career highlight: Making the fourth round here in Australia, unless it’s beating Petra Kvitova in Indian Wells as a 16-year-old.
-Analysis: The teenage American is currently living her best life, defeating the aforementioned Sabalenka in a battle of the next generation of the WTA. Amanda Anisimova has mostly risen to the occasion since she’s started competing on the circuit and, but for a foot fracture last year, you might have heard of her much earlier.
-TD;LR: The next great American hope. Maybe.
-Career highlight: Making the 2017 Rogers Cup semifinal, defeating Juan Martin del Potro and Rafael Nadal in the process.
-Analysis: Denis Shapovalov took the world of tennis by storm in the summer of 2017 as an 18-year-old, but the time since has proven that things aren’t always this easy. He has a game predicated on him taking things to his opponent and never letting up. Shapo plays with a flair worthy of the hat he wears backward on his head.
-TD;LR: Upside of being Milos Raonic 2.0 but with pizazz. Also a lefty.
-Career highlight: If not this Australian Open quarterfinal run, then it’s the fact that he became the youngest American since Michael Chang to make French Open main draw at age 17.
-Analysis: Frances Tiafoe will make you earn every point and every game when you play against him and it’s almost become required by law to mention his unusual forehand motion, so here it goes: Tiafoe has an unusual forehand motion. The American also has a strong defence game, and his strengths are the return game as well as the baseline.
-TD;LR: A new Michael Chang.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG