7 Young Stars Poised to Take Over Tennis

GQ Hype: It is the massive story of proper now.The brand new era of elite males’s tennis gamers is a small, tight-knit group. With a professional tour that stretches from January by way of November, and from Melbourne to New York, Tokyo to Monte Carlo, they spend lots 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 prime 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 Massive Three: Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Novak Djokovic. From 2004 to final yr’s US Open, the trio gained 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 out to be contingent on journey guidelines and restrictions.Consequently, there’s one thing of a emptiness on the prime of the game—a gap for a celebrity (or just a few) to set himself aside, simply as a dynamic mixture of artistic 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 exterior the slams, the place the sport’s prime 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 abilities joked and gossiped and mentioned the yr their era broke out—and what may 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. In keeping with Tiafoe, the hole between the highest gamers and the remainder of the sector has all however vanished. “It’s getting wild, man,” he stated. “In case you don’t come right, you will get it from anyone.”Tiafoe is aware of this higher than anybody. Eventually yr’s US Open, he had the misfortune of drawing a fourth-round match towards 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 Massive Three. Now, Nadal may be entertaining comparable doubts. A couple of months after the Open, Tiafoe and compatriot Jack Sock vanquished Nadal and Federer in a match that sealed the Swiss legend’s retirement. Mentioned Tiafoe, “I don’t consider in flukes.”