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The ATP Next Gen: Who is poised to make the breakthrough in 2019?

Leye Aduloju in ATP Tour 30 Nov 2018
  • Next Gen stars, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas have broken into the top 20 in the last couple of seasons, with Zverev climbing as high as No. 3
  • Which Next Gen star will make his breakthrough in 2019?
Jaume Munar. (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)

The Next Gen ATP stars have been making serious moves on the tour in the last couple of seasons, with Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas at the forefront- who is the next in line to make the big jump? 

Of the eight players that took part in the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals in 2017, Borna Coric, Daniil Medvedev and Karen Khachanov have made the move into the Top 20, while Hyeon Chung also climbed into the top 20, but slipped out majorly due to his injury problems in 2018.

Ahead of the new season, we look through the crème of the young guns in and around the lower end of the top 100, and predict who will make the biggest move in 2019.

5. Jaume Munar (Spain)

Not many would have heard about Jaume Munar before Roland Garros, but the Spanish youngster launched himself into the mainstream with a terrific win over David Ferrer in Paris, coming from two sets down to take down his legendary compatriot in five sets.

Jaume Munar. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
The 21-year-old would go on to give an excellent account of himself in the second round against Novak Djokovic, losing, but certainly not outplayed in a 7-6 6-4 6-4 defeat. He reached a first tour-level semi-final in Kitzbuhel, and the third round on the hard courts of Winston-Salem, just to show a bit of surface versatility. 

That versatility was again evident at the Next Gen ATP Finals, where he got to the semi-finals before falling to Alex De Minaur in a five-set epic. Munar has been training at the Rafael Nadal Academy, and he certainly shares some similarities with the 17-time major winner- he’s a terrific competitor, feisty and combative, a solid baseliner, and a fine mover.

The Spaniard climbed as high as No. 3 in the junior rankings, and reached the French Open junior final in 2015. It was in that same year that he defeated Guillermo Garcia-Lopez for his maiden ATP World Tour victory, but he didn't add to that until 2018, when he pushed his win tally into double figures, breaking into the top 100 as a consequence.

Munar also picked up two Challenger titles in 2018, winning in Prostejov and Caltanissetta. 

With seven of the top-ten Spaniards all older than 30, Spanish tennis can do with a new, fresh star, and Jaume Munar could well be that man, and 2019 could be his year. 

4. Reilly Opelka (USA)

When Reilly Opelka powered to the semifinals of the Atlanta Open in 2016, and backed it up with tour-level wins in Los Cabos and Cincinnati to finish the year just outside the top 200, the giant American looked set to make a big push for the top 100 in 2017, but he never really got going, reaching just the one Challenger semi-final in Aix-En-Provence.

Reilly Opelka. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
2018 was much better, despite injury and health problems. The 7ft American reached two Challenger semi-finals in January, more than what he managed in the entirety of 2017, and followed it up with an ATP World Tour quarter final at Delray Beach, where he scored his first top-ten win over Jack Sock. He made further Challenger semi-finals on the clay of Savannah and Sarasota, before claiming the Bordeaux title in May, his first title since Charlottesville in November 2016.

The 21-year-old fell in the qualifying rounds at Roland Garros and Wimbledon before spending time away from the sport after being diagnosed with mononucleosis. However, he returned to produce a cracking final quarter, reaching Challenger finals in Chicago and Cary, and closing the season with titles in Knoxville and Champaign.

That late surge finally earned the giant American his top 100 debut, and if he can maintain an extended period of fitness and health in 2019, he could more than halve his current ranking of 98th come the end of the season.

3. Hubert Hurkacz (Poland)

Hubert Hurkacz might have fallen in the round robin phase at the Next Gen ATP Finals, but this talented Pole certainly entertained with his blend of power and touch.

Hubert Hurkacz. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Hurkacz possesses a big serve and powerful groundstrokes, the forehand being his deadliest weapon, which is unsurprising given his 6ft 5in frame, but he has also got plenty of finesse about him, as he showcased with some deft touches around the net in Milan.

The Pole reached a career-high ranking of 79th in 2018, from a starting point of 238th in January, and was among the nominees for the Newcomer of the Year, a prize that eventually went to De Minaur. He won his first Challenger titles in Poznan and Brest, and got a runner-up finish in Zhuhai.

The 20-year-old registered four tour-level wins in 2018 (excluding the Davis Cup); a couple at Grand Slam level. He defeated Australian Open quarter finalist, Tennys Sandgren at Wimbledon before falling to Marin Cilic in four sets, while he stopped Italian, Stefano Travaglia via retirement at the US Open, but suffered a heavy 6-2 6-0 6-0 defeat to Cilic in the second round. That's all part of the learning curve of course- expect him to make bigger strides in the coming season.

2. Ugo Humbert (France)

Frenchman, Ugo Humbert enjoyed an outstanding season on the Challenger Tour, claiming titles in Segovia, Ortisei and Andria, and reaching three other finals in Gatineau, Granby and Cassis.

Ugo Humbert. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)
Humbert had won Futures titles in Switzerland, Canada and his home country, France earlier in the year before taking the Challenger Tour by storm in the second half of the season. His efforts could not quite get him into the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals, as he finished just one spot off direct qualification, but given his acceleration and the momentum he's generated over the last six months, he will be one of the favourites for the Milan title next year. 

Humbert also played his first tour-level matches in 2018, at the US Open no less, beating American, Collin Altamirano in his opening match for his maiden tour-level victory, before falling just short against Stan Wawrinka in the second round, stretching the three-time major winner to four sets. Overall, he was 2-3 on the ATP World Tour in 2018- expect those numbers to improve significantly next season.

The left-hander began the year ranked 378th, but finished the year at No. 84, the biggest jump in the Top 100. He also became the youngest Frenchman to break the Top 100 since Richard Gasquet in 2006.

1. Felix Auger-Aliassime (Canada)

Canadian young gun, Felix Auger-Aliassime only just missed out on qualification for the Next Gen Finals last season, but the 18-year-old remains one of the brightest prospect in the sport, and looks set to make his move on the main tour in 2019.

Auger-Aliassime enjoyed a fine junior career, reaching No. 2 in the world, and winning the US Open junior title in 2016, beating Stefanos Tsitsipas along the way. He also won the doubles title at Flushing Meadows in 2015, partnering fellow teen and compatriot, Denis Shapovalov. 

Tsitsipas and Shapovalov have both gone on to make their marks on the tour, with both now ranked in the top 30, but it appears only a matter of time before Auger-Aliassime, the youngest of the trio, joins them.

Felix Auger-Aliassime. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
The Canadian reached a career-high ranking of 108 in 2018, following Challenger successes in Lyon and Tashkent, while he also made his ATP World Tour debut, amassing a 6-10 tour-level record. His best result was in Chengdu, where he made the quarter finals, while he picked up wins at Indian Wells, Umag, Gstaad, and Toronto.

The teenager also made his Grand Slam main draw debut at the US Open, but his tournament ended in tears, as he was forced to retire in his opening match against Shapovalov due to heat related problems with the match locked at one-set all. 

At 6ft 3in, Auger-Aliassime is the quintessential modern-day player, armed with a good serve and solid groundstrokes off both sides. He looks well covered in most areas, and has got a fantastic career ahead of him.

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The ATP Next Gen: Who is poised to make the breakthrough in 2019?

Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas have shown the way for the Next Gen in the last couple of seasons- which of their contemporaries will make his move in 2019?

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