by Bob Stockton
It’s typical to start a new ATP season by predicting who might be the next person to win their first Grand Slam. However, the sustained form and fitness of a certain trio of players have consistently made a mockery of those predictions. Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal look set to continue their dominance for a good few years, while you should never write off Roger Federer until the moment that he’s retired.
Rather than predicting who might win a Grand Slam this season, let’s set our sights a little lower and look at those seeking to break into the ATP top 10 for the first time in their career. These players may be eyeing up success at a Masters event this year as a more realistic objective than winning a Slam.
Most teenagers have a clear weakness in their game that currently holds them back. This 19-year-old Canadian already looks like the complete package, comfortable on every surface. Auger-Aliassime may not head the betting markets at any of the Grand Slams this year, but it appears inevitable. Expect tipping experts like those at Betzcenter to back the Canadian at several points during the year – this may be one of the last seasons where there’s still value in getting behind him.
Auger-Aliassime reached a peak of #17 in the rankings in October 2019, but the top ten beckons. His best performance at a Slam last year came in his third-round run at Wimbledon, so there’s plenty of scope for Auger-Aliassime to rack up lots of new ranking points in 2020.
Auger-Aliassime’s compatriot boasts a career ranking of #14, with Shapovalov one decent tournament away from the top ten. Shapovalov made a stunning impact on the ATP Tour in 2017, beating Nadal on the way to the semi-final at the Rogers Cup. This made the Canadian the youngest male player to reach this stage at a Masters, so the top ten appeared an inevitability for this powerful hitter.
We’ve seen little reason to change that expectation in the following years, with Shapovalov going one better in 2019 and reaching his first Masters final in Paris. Shapovalov should start the new season in confident fashion, with Tennis365 reporting on his vow to reach more Masters finals this year. Already in sight of the top ten, Shapovalov will fancy his chances of overtaking the likes of David Goffin and Fabio Fognini in 2020.
Alex de Minaur
It’s probably worth giving a shout-out to someone who isn’t Canadian. De Minaur reached his career best ranking of #18 in October 2019, with the 20-year-old Australian impressing fans with his fighting spirit and on-court agility throughout the season. Those attributes stand him in good stead against the bigger hitters on tour, with many fearing that the heaviest ball strikers would overpower de Minaur.
However, the Australian has honed his offensive shots and worked on his strength – the proof is in the three ATP titles he claimed in 2019. De Minaur earned his first win against a top-1o opponent last year – Kei Nishikori at the US Open.
Those are three fairly safe predictions, so let’s end with a couple of dark horses. 18-year-old Jannik Sinner reached a career best of #78, but the Italian appears destined for big things – and soon. Andrey Rublev – career best #22 – is another player who could make a move up the rankings if one of his hot streaks coincides with a big tournament.