Yesterday I posted an article that surprisingly generated a lot of buzz. If you haven’t read it, check out Survivor Series, here. In that article, I briefly touched upon the grueling nature of this year’s U.S Open and how any ill prepared top seed had been ambushed in the early rounds of competition – both on the women’s and men’s side. Of course, I turned my microscope on Federer as well, and the reaction from the readers has been mixed. Someone did point out that other top players and members of the next generation camp, were also being stretched to the limit. He was right. As we debated Federer’s form, the top players were busy dropping like flies. Yesterday, sanity reigned supreme in the WTA, so we’ll focus on the insane ATP in this article.
Who is Diego Schwartzman?
He just may be the most untalked member of the ATP next generation camp. Yet Diego Schwartzman is a name that has popped up more and more this year. You might remember him for pushing Novak Djokovic to five sets at Roland Garros, or for getting to the quarterfinals of the Montreal masters, before losing to Robin Haase. The 5’7″ diminutive player has had a breakout season, seven years after turning pro. It has seen him reach his highest ranking till date, number 33 in the world. The Argentine has a scrapper’s game, not unlike that of a man most Argentine players hated. Lleyton Hewitt. Yesterday, Schwartzman put that game together long enough to score a big upset over Marin Cilic. This was a literal David vs Goliath showdown. With his firepower, Cilic was expected to blow Schwartzman off the court. However, the former U.S Open champion hasn’t looked his best since losing to Federer at the all England club. Schwartzman took advantage and scraped out the victory in four sets. Another seed bites the dust. I did notice Schwartzman’s backhand. It is a secret weapon. I love how he can spread the court with it in a way that reminds me of a former Argentine shotmaker, David Nalbandian.
Coric downed in the next round
It’s a dog eat dog world out there. Coric came into the third round riding a high. He had knocked out Alexander Zverev – a U.S Open favorite and probably the most accomplished member of the next generation camp – in the previous round, in clinical fashion. In round three he was up against a slightly similar power player. Kevin Anderson. Could Coric blunt the South African’s power the way he had done to Zverev? Turns out he couldn’t. Anderson is slightly different from Zverev because he can generate his own pace even when you throw off pace shots at him. That and Anderson is a seasoned veteran on tour, who has faced off with the best of them. Coric found these out the hard way. Still, at the tender age of twenty, he will learn from this and should only improve as he goes forward.
Shapovalov comes full circle
Watching Denis Shapovalov play is an experience. Where Grigor Dimitrov gives you the sense of a solid imitation, Shapovalov sends shivers down your spine. He appears to embody a culmination, a generational shift as it were, much like Federer did when he first burst on the scene. How and if he actualizes this level of potential greatness, is entirely up to him and his support system. He is on his way. I believe that journey started a few months ago when Denis Shapovalov struck an umpire in the eye with a ball. That was in a Davis Cup match against Great Britain. His opponent on the day? Kyle Edmund. That match was the first time I’d heard of Shapovalov and I’m sure it was the same for many others. It was not the best introduction to the world of tennis but looking back, it just may have been the metal through the fire moment. A visibly shaken Shapovalov, full of apologies and regret, left the court that day with a towel over his head. How he has bounced back from that low, is nothing short of remarkable. That he defeated Kyle Edmund yesterday to make the second week of a grand slam for the first time, is a circle completion moment. The Davis Cup demon is finally laid to rest. The fairytale continues.
Big Brother Lessons
Mischa Zverev is the less celebrated of the Zverev brothers. His younger brother, Alexander, is widely heralded as tennis’s next king. He’s won five titles this year including two masters 1000 tournaments. Yet it is the older brother – a decade older – that has done better at the slams this year. Alexander Zverev has outdone Mischa Zverev in only one grand slam. Wimbledon. They both fell out of the French in round one, but while Alexander lost in the third round of the Australian Open and the second round of the U.S Open, Mischa Zverev made it all the way to the quarterfinals, down under. At the U.S Open, he’s in the fourth round. The younger Zverev would do well to learn a thing or two from the older Zverev’s ability to tweak his serve and volley game to his opponent’s style. He doesn’t just mix it up with approach slices and perfectly placed lefty serves. He also mixes it up with a subtle weapon – timing. No one on tour today approaches the net as deftly and at the right time as Mischa. He just might be the best serve and volley player of this generation. He was tactically spot on against Isner, as he was against Murray in Australia. Of course, the unfortunate result of Mischa’s success was Isner’s failure. Seeded 10th in this tournament, Isner should be disappointed in his showing.
He’s not alone. He joins a long list of stars who have been skewered by an uprising like no other. Let the slaughter continue.