7 Young Stars Poised to Take Over Tennis

GQ Hype: It is the large story of proper now.

The brand new technology of elite males’s tennis gamers is a small, tight-knit group. With a professional tour that stretches from January via November, and from Melbourne to New York, Tokyo to Monte Carlo, they spend quite a lot of time collectively, capturing the shit in locker rooms, ice baths, and lodge eating places—and in group chats that date again to their early teenage years. They speak about tennis, largely. And recently, the conversations have revolved round a brand new line of hypothesis: Which certainly one of them is up subsequent? In different phrases, because the 25-year-old American rising star Frances Tiafoe put it to me lately, “Who’s going to be the man out of our group to win a grand slam, after which proceed to win grand slams and be on the high of the sport?”

The crop of gamers in competition to be that man has arrived like an answered prayer. For the higher a part of the previous 20 years, tennis was dominated by the so-called Large Three: Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Novak Djokovic. From 2004 to final yr’s US Open, the trio received 62 out of 75 grand slams, the historic and moneyed quartet of tournaments that make or break legacies. However by the tip of final yr, Federer had retired, Nadal had begun to grapple with ever-more frequent accidents, and an unvaccinated Djokovic’s main appearances had turn into contingent on journey guidelines and restrictions.

Consequently, there’s one thing of a emptiness on the high of the game—a gap for a famous person (or a number of) to set himself aside, simply as a dynamic mixture of inventive younger gamers are coming into their very own. To survey that new bevy of expertise, GQ traveled final fall to the Paris Masters, one of many tour’s most prestigious tournaments outdoors the slams, the place the sport’s high gamers have been vying for one of many final trophies of the yr. Gathered in an athletic membership within the metropolis’s Left Financial institution on the eve of the occasion, seven of the draw’s hottest skills joked and gossiped and mentioned the yr their technology broke out—and what is likely to be forward. “2022 was one of many first years the place I felt like, going into the actually huge tournaments, anybody may win,” Taylor Fritz, a 25-year-old baseliner from San Diego, advised me. Based on Tiafoe, the hole between the highest gamers and the remainder of the sphere has all however vanished. “It’s getting wild, man,” he stated. “In case you don’t come appropriate, you may get it from anyone.”

Tiafoe is aware of this higher than anybody. Finally yr’s US Open, he had the misfortune of drawing a fourth-round match in opposition to Nadal. Going into their contest, Nadal, regardless of his accidents, was nonetheless undefeated in main matches in over a yr, and he’d dusted Tiafoe in two earlier conferences. Then Tiafoe, the son of a janitor at a tennis academy in Maryland, took the Spaniard down in 4 units of livid shot making. “I by no means knew if I used to be going to beat a kind of dudes,” Tiafoe stated of the Large Three. Now, Nadal is likely to be entertaining comparable doubts. Just a few months after the Open, Tiafoe and compatriot Jack Sock vanquished Nadal and Federer in a match that sealed the Swiss legend’s retirement. Stated Tiafoe, “I don’t imagine in flukes.”