With 2014 behind us, it’s time to look ahead to the new season. Will the Big Four remain in sync within the men’s game, or will a couple of backstreet boys begin a more serious charge towards the upper echelons? Nick Nemeroff profiles three such rising stars, analyzing what has made them good, and predicting what could make them great.
Nick KYRGIOS (AUS)
For Kyrgios, the future will be about control, namely over his significant resvoir of power and even greater range of emotions. The young Aussie beat Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon, and has all the talent in the world.
But it could all go to waste if he’s unable to manage his strokes and what’s going on inside his head.
In his defense, he is just 19 years old. His maturation is clearly in process, but if he can spur up sooner rather than later, he’ll be winning just as quickly.
Sometimes, he plays as if he’s had an energy drink before stepping on court. At the beginning of matches, he engulfs the court and crowd with unrestrained charisma. As the matches draw on, however, his level tends to crash, and his potential for growth becomes evident. We saw this exact thing happen when Kyrgios faced Tommy Robredo in the U.S. Open and Milos Raonic at Wimbledon.
If Kyrgios expects to thrive in 2015, balance will be the key.
Borna CORIC (CRO)
The expectations for Coric are high. At just 18, Croatia’s rising star has already won seven ATP World Tour matches and, of course, beaten Rafael Nadal in Basel.
Comparisons to Novak Djokovic have already been made, but Coric can’t let any of the success or hype surrounding him get to his head. Put bluntly, one can say that he beat a hobbled Ernests Gulbis and a Nadal who played one of the worst matches of his career.
It would therefore be premature to declare Coric as anything beyond what he is now: an extremely talented teenager with substantial promise.
He’s currently No. 102 in the world and to provide some context, the same Coric who beat Nadal also lost to World No. 114 Marsel Ilhan a week later, winning just six games in the process. These types of results aren’t going to go away overnight, making patience the key for Coric.
Alexander ZVEREV (GER)
Alexander Zverev plays a beautiful game. He possesses smooth, circular groundstrokes, a rhythmic serve and moves around the court like a gazelle – impressive for someone of his size. He doesn’t have the power of someone like Kyrgios quite yet, but the German has a game that will allow him to win a lot of matches, setting himself up as an incredibly tough out in years to come.
He’s intense and hates to lose. This is a great attribute but, like Kyrgios, he needs to manage his emotions. Emotional displays of anger, while possibly relieving negative tension, tend to be detrimental. It’s no coincidence that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are absolute masters at maintaining a positive demeanor throughout matches.
I see Zverev as closer to fulfilling his potential than either Kyrgios or Coric, but also believe his ceiling is a little lower. It’s harder for me, for example, to envision the 17-year-old winning a Grand Slam down the road, but it would be a big surprise if he isn’t a mainstay in the ATP’s Top 30.
What Zverev needs to add to his game is power. At 6’6″, he can’t rely on grinding down opponents and constructing long points. It simply won’t allow him to beat the best players. He would be wise to follow the lead of a player like Marin Cilic, whose coaching switch to Goran Ivanisevic ushered in a much more attacking game-style from the Croat, and yielded the Grand Slam trophy of which all three of these youngsters undoubtedly dream.