Shining Shapovalov is lighting up the courts

Name: Denis Shapovalov

Age: 18

Similar playing style to: Stan Wawrinka


The amount Denis Shapovalov has achieved in his tennis career by the age of 18 is truly astonishing. The wins over world class players, improvement in his all-round game and the evidence he has a tough heart at such a young age are a few of the impressive components he has shown to date.

When first arriving on the scene, the young Canadian was perhaps underestimated in his potential – was he just a one trick pony with his dominant serve?  Certainly not. There’s no doubt this young prodigy will go onto win grand slams.

Shapovalov was selected in the Canadian Davis Cup team to face Great Britain back in early 2017. After a loss to Dan Evans, then a disqualification to Kyle Edmund for hitting the umpire in the face with the ball, it’s fair to say his first showing on the big stage didn’t quite go to plan.

However, it was later in the year at the Rogers Cup where the young Canadian made every tennis fan excited. A straight-sets win over Juan Martin Del Potro was impressive enough, to then come from a set-down to beat world number two Rafael Nadal was when I, along with every other tennis fan started to realise we could have a future star on our hands. He went onto defeat Adrian Mannarino, before bowing out to Alexander Zverev in a semi-final thriller, becoming the youngest player ever to reach a ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final.

Up next, the small matter of the US Open. Shapovalov came through three qualifying rounds to enter the main draw. The youngster continued his stunning form, defeating: Danil Medvedev in round 1, world number eight Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in round two and Britain’s Kyle Edmund in round three. He was the talk of the tournament, who is this guy? Could he go all the way, similarly to Boris Becker winning Wimbledon in 1985 aged just 17. Not quite, Pablo Carreno Busta spoilt the party, beating the Canadian in straight-sets, but what a way to introduce yourself to the big stage.

Shapovalov has made a solid start to the season, and I’d expect him to go strength-to-strength through the grass court season, heading into the US Open ready to take the tournament by storm again. He possesses a very powerful, accurate and punishing backhand, matched with his dominant serve, he has the tools to go very far, very quickly.

The thing that impresses me most about him, is the steely attitude. I’ve watched him a number of times serving under pressure, break points down, and very rarely does he falter.

“Winning points takes talent, winning matches takes character”

That’s a quote I always look back on in tennis. You might be the most talented player in the world, but have you got the bottle to fight when the going gets tough? Can you win the tight sets against the great players? Can you convert a match winning opportunity?

Shapovalov sticks out to me as a genuine star. He has that perfect balance between class and character, which will result in him being a multiple grand slam champion in future years.






The weird and wonderful: Nick Kyrgios

27146459703_9f9968263a_o.jpgName: Nick Kyrgios

Age: 21

Born: Australia

Similar playing style to: There is nobody like Nick Kyrgios

Whether you love him or hate him, Kygrios is undoubtedly an outstanding young talent. He obviously has his quirks, his troubles and basketball to play, but how good could this man be with some guidance? It’s crazy to thing about. I could write for ever and ever about him, but let’s just focus on his tennis.

It seems as though Kyrgios has been around for a long, long time, but I think that’s down to the amount of controversy that has surrounded him. It was early in 2014 when I remember watching him in the final of Savannah Challenger against Jack Sock. He only edged a close match to win his 2nd career title, but he just had that aura and class about him, which from a teenager is very rare.

Onto Wimbledon 2014. Kyrgios came from two sets down to beat Richard Gasquet, saving 9 match points along the way, and I remember thinking ‘wow this kid can play and he wants it’. He then went on to beat Jiri Vesely to set up a 4th round clash against Rafael Nadal. Of course he beat him. The shot of the match was Kyrgios’ forehand, half-volley winner from between his legs that David Polkinghorne of The Canberra Times described as “freakish” and “audacious”. If he does it now, it’s just the norm. He lost his quarter-final to Milos Raonic, and although Novak Djokovic (2014 Wimbledon champion) was sensational for the two weeks, the talk of the tournament was Kyrgios. Who is this kid? He’s 19 year-old, reaching the quarter final of Wimbledon while playing trick shots against Rafael Nadal. He was more than exciting.

Kyrgios made it to the 3rd round of the US Open, then decided to skip the rest of the season, citing burnout as his reason. He ended the year ranked 52nd in the world, and the no. 2 ranked Australian behind Lleyton Hewitt. His 2015 season started at the Australian Open where he became the first teenage male to reach two Grand Slam quarter-finals since Federer in 2001, this was after another five set thriller against Andreas Seppi in the 4th round. Kyrgios lost his quarter-final in straight sets to Andy Murray, but again he was making a name for himself and rapidly rising up the rankings.

Back to his scene of stardom. Wimbledon. This is first time Kyrgios showed his bad attitude, to which the public or press didn’t respond well to. Despite beating world number seven Milos Raonic in round three, his tournament was marred by incidents involving: giving up against Gasquet, threatening to stop playing following an incorrect line call, bad language and smashing his racquet which bounced into spectators. I felt sorry for himself more than anybody, for someone who has watched Kyrgios a lot I know how special he could be. To see this crazy talent go to waste because of a bad attitude would be a real shame for the sport.

Kyrgios won the 2016 Tokyo title, his biggest title win to date, after beating David Goffin in the final. He was disappointing in grand slams this year, and I put that down to sheer lack of application. The real top players train and prepare months in advance for these tournaments, where as I’m not sure Kyrgios applies himself as well. It isn’t down to lack of talent for his poor form, definitely not. On his day Kyrgios could beat anyone in the world, he’s that good. His mind, concentration and passion is his downfall right now. Whether he needs a coach to try and nurture him, or he thinks he will mature in time will remain to be seen. But whatever happens, I hope Kyrgios finds the solution to his problems because he could be one of the tennis greats.

Can Karen Khachanov follow in the footsteps of Marat Safin?

28211135605_20564c6f24_oName: Karen Khachanov

Age: 20

Born: Russia

Similar playing style to: Milos Raonic

Is Khachanov the most exciting youngster on the circuit? In comparison to Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Zverev, no he isn’t, but he’s just as effective. He trains in Barcelona with Raonic’s former coach, the smart and focused Galo Blanco. With that background, it’s hardly a surprise to learn his favourite surfaces are clay and hard court. His heavy groundstrokes, the booming forehand in particular, suit the quick surfaces.

Khachanov won his first ATP title last October, winning The Chengdu Open. On the way to the final, he eliminated veteran pros Joao Sousa, Feliciano Lopez and Viktor Troicki. The manner in which he won the final was mightily impressive, coming from a set down to beat 27th-ranked Albert Ramos-Vinolas. A lot of young players have all the quality required to be a top player, but lack the killer instinct and guile to win, not Khachanov though. He battled back very well in that final, and closed the match out in style.

The Russian proved his mental toughness in The US Open vs Nishikori. After winning the second set, he didn’t capitulate by any means, he was simply outclassed by a more complete and experienced player. He made Nishikori fight for his win, and I liked that, he BELIEVED he could win. Yes, he came up short as expected, but he still impressed with his battling mentality.

The most telling aspect of his personal bio, was him choosing Safin and Juan Martin Del Potro when asked to name his role models. Both are big guys, lumber around the court and are brutal when giving short balls to hit at. That’s a pretty accurate description of how Khachanov goes about his business too. We know already he can strike winners with ease, serve solid, but does he have the mobility and speed to move around the court? I assume it’s something we’ll find out in the coming years.

I would predict Zverev and Kyrgios to be more successful in years to come, purely down to them being well-rounded and complete players. However, on his day, Khachanov could blow anyone off the court with his serve and power. If he can improve his mobility, return of serve and rally play, he is well capable of challenging at the very top.

Champion in the making: Alexander Zverev

21302381522_56b48e2506_o.jpgName: Alexander Zverev

Age: 19

Born: Germany

Similar playing style to: Michael Stich

At 19, Zverez just looks like a ready made champion. An absolute bomb of a serve, an excellent two-handed backhand and an improving temperament.

In March, Rafael Nadal recognised Zverev’s potential, calling him a: “possible future No. 1 who has all the shots” and “everything to become a big star.” Nadal hasn’t talked up a young player like that since facing Kei Nishikori as a teenager at Queens, he said Kei would be: “top 5 for sure.” how right was he. Zverez is the youngest player in the ATP top 50, after a great year has shot him up to 24th in the world.

Zverez began 2016 with wins over Marian Cilic, Varek Pospisil and Gilles Simon, which showed this man was on a mission this year. Indian Wells was the first tournament that players, pundits and fans realised just how good Zverev was at the age of 19. He eventually lost out to Nadal 6-7 6-0 7-5, but the way he bullied Nadal at times was so impressive for a man that still has so much to learn.

That successful run at Indian Wells seemed to transform Zverev into a more complete player. The German was full of confidence going into Nice, on his favoured surface, and duly delivered. Zverev cruised into the final, where he met another talented youngster in Dominic Thiem in the final, and they served up a classic encounter that he just lost narrowly.

Back to his native Germany for the Halle Open. Zverev secured his biggest win to date, beating Roger Federer in straight sets, before losing to Florian Mayer in the final.

The German won his first ATP title in Saint Petersburg. Zverev raced to the semi-finals without losing a set, in which he dismantled Tomas Berdych to win 6-4 6-4. Onto the final, Stan Wawrinka stood in his way. It didn’t faze him one bit, Zverev eventually won a close encounter 6-2 3-6 7-5 that propelled him into the top 30 of the world for the first time in his young career.

Now Zverev has won that first title, I’m expecting him to get strength to strength, and really push on next year. He’s improving all of the time, and undoubtedly has every tool required to be one of the top, top players. The wins over Federer and Wawrinka will have given him valuable experience, and confidence to win more and more titles. It looks a matter of time before Zverez starts making his presence felt in Grand Slams, he really is that good.

I look forward to watching him develop into a superstar, and battle it out against other top players like Thiem, Borna Coric, Nick Kyrgios and all of the other young starts in the future.

The next Djokovic? Borna Coric

14886453069_baf08dcb32_o.jpgName: Borna Coric
Age: 19
Born: Croatia
Similar playing style to: Novak Djokovic


I thought I’d start this blog off with my favourite up and coming star.

Coric has a tattoo on his arm that reads: “There is nothing worse in life than being ordinary” he certainly isn’t ordinary. The Croatian teenager clearly does not lack in confidence; but he has the pedigree to back it up. Furthermore, Goran Ivanisevic is backing his protege Coric to hit the very top of the sport.

 After winning the 2013 junior US Open championships, Coric defeated world number 1 Andy Murray in straight sets at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, before losing his semi-final to Roger Federer.

 Coric started 2016 excellently in Chennai, only losing to Stan Wawrinka in the final. Onto the French Open, Coric overcame Taylor Fritz in a close match before securing his biggest win to date over Bernard Tomic in round 2. Just from watching that match, you knew he was something special. To dispose of a top 30 player in that fashion was a real sign of how good this man can be.

Coric also performed to a ridiculous standard for his young age in Cinciatti, on his favoured hard court. Coric battled his way past Beniot Paire and Nick Kyrgios in the opening two rounds, then utterly destroyed Rafael Nadal 6-1 6-3, it’s hard to remember he’s only 19.

Knee injuries halted Coric’s great year, meaning he had to pull out of The US Open. Although he still broke into the worlds top 50, becoming the second fastest player ever to do so, behind Djokovic.

Coric will be hoping for an injury free season in 2017, and continue his climb to the very top. He looks like the next Djokovic in everything he does. His performances over Murray, Tomic and Nadal were nothing short of amazing, taking into account his lack of experience on the big stage. I really hope he manages to stay clear of injuries, because I think we have a ‘future superstar’ in Borna Coric.