Six more young guns have been added to the men’s singles main draw for the 2015 French Open via qualifying, one as a lucky loser, and the other five as regular qualifiers. These players may lack the ranking, and in some cases the reputation, needed to get direct entry in the main draw, but they are all battle tested and not only should be solid players in the future, but could pull off some excellent results in the opening week of the tournament starting on Sunday. This is a companion piece for my article on the rest of the main draw ATP young guns that you can click here to read.
Young Gun Men’s Qualifiers at the 2015 French Open:
The future of Swedish tennis is 19 year old Elias Ymer, who is at his best on clay, with five futures titles on the surface. Ymer made his Grand Slam debut at the Australian Open this year as a qualifier, where he lost a tough five set match in round 1, and he also won a pair of matches in Barcelona this year, including scoring a win over Nick Kyrgios in three sets, a match that could signal an emerging rivalry in the future. Ymer qualified by dropping just 1 set, and he’ll have an interesting round 1 match against the unpredictable Lukas Rosol. Rosol is a great player when on his game, but if he starts spewing errors, the wheels can come off, and Ymer, who is flexible, and defensively sound, with the ability to counterpunch, could capitalize on that and score his first ever Grand Slam main draw victory. I’d give him a better chance against Rosol than most are, but it’s still a tough ask and it’s unlikely he makes it past the second round regardless. Ymer recently moved to Barcelona to do academy training there in the Spanish system on red clay, previously he was part of the Good to Great tennis program in Sweden.
19 year old lefty Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan, whose favorite player is Marcelo Rios, the former Chilean #1, is making his Grand Slam debut at the 2015 French Open. He’s a newly minted top 150 player who is speedy, and packs a punch for his small frame, in some ways reminiscent of Kei Nishikori. Nishioka is solid on clay as he’s 52-16 over the past three seasons on the surface, all of those matches coming at a level below ATP main draw action. He qualified dropping just 1 set at the French, and he reached his first ever ATP quarterfinal in Delray Beach this year where he beat two ATP regulars in straight sets.
The bad news is, for all his promise, he got a terrible round 1 matchup as he will face off with Tomas Berdych, who has had a great season and is a powerful player who should prevent Yoshi from generation pace. Thus I don’t see him taking even a set, but all the same, he’s a promising young player for Japan, who are starting to develop a consistent pipeline of tennis talent on the heels of Nishikori’s success.
Belgian young gun Kimmer Coppejans hasn’t made many waves outside of the challenger tour, but he was the 2012 junior French Open Champion, and he has won five challenger titles (two this year), four of them coming on clay, including one this year. Previously, we saw young Belgian David Goffin make his breakthrough run at the French Open, so perhaps it’s Coppejans time to do the same. He’s solid as a tennis player, but struggles with his mental fortitude at times, and that is what has held him back from becoming a top 100 player.
He qualified against a hostile crowd though, as he beat three French players en route, and he very well could reach the third round, as Nicolas Mahut, an aging wild card who is nearing retirement, is his first opponent, and then he’ll get the winner of Igor Sijsling/Ernests Gulbis. Sijsling is even weaker mentally than Coppejans is, and Gulbis has been one of the worst players on tour this season, with the pressure of defending semifinal points looming large. It would be a surprise run, but the draw does favor him as a qualifier, and we’ll see what he can do, his game is impressive.
The South African born Edmund, who represents Great Britain and is 21, was a surprising qualifier, given, like almost every British player, he’s a fast surface player, with a game built for grass and hard courts. That said, he has a surprisingly good record on clay, (four clay court futures titles and two finals). He beat three relatively solid clay courters to qualify, all relative upsets, and he has a very winnable round 1 match against another qualifier, Stephane Robert, who is the definition of a journeyman, and is one of the oldest players still active on tour.
Edmund twice made the French Open junior quarterfinals, and he’s nearing the top 100 in ranking in part thanks to a challenger title this season. Should he beat Robert, Nick Kyrgios is likely in round 2, that of course would be a battle of the young guns, and should Edmund continue his surprising run, he could run into the UK #1 Andy Murray in a third round match, though I’d consider it unlikely he makes it that far.
Lanky 22 year old Japanese player Taro Daniel, who has American ties and considers New York his home as well, qualified while dropping two sets over three matches, and he will open with the accomplished and formidable veteran Fernando Verdasco in his opening match. Should Daniel pull off a shock, he has a shot at the third round, but I could honestly see Verdasco pushing him too far behind the baseline and neutralizing his game.
He’s had a somewhat up and down journey to this point as he reached the quarterfinals of ATP Vina Del Mar in 2014 as a qualifier, the best result of his career thus far, but has since failed to replicate that level of play at the main tour level. Taro would go on to qualify for the 2014 US Open, so this will be his second Grand Slam tournament main draw, and he also recently won a challenger on clay in Italy.
Though Japanese players aren’t traditionally trained on clay, Daniel in fact trained as a junior in Valencia, Spain, and had a similar path to the one Andy Murray took as a junior through the Spanish academy system as a teen. Thus, his best surface is clay, and that’s the one he is most likely to do damage on, though his hard court game is certainly improved. Daniel in many ways reminds me of a less advanced version of Thanasi Kokkinakis, as tall and lanky players seem to be having success on tour these days.
Fiery 22 old Argentine Facundo Arguello will serve as foil for the in-form Andy Murray in the opening round. Arguello lost to Gastao Elias in the final round of qualifying, but entered the draw as a lucky loser, and he also won the USTA Tallahassee Tennis Challenger, which is played on Har-Tru green clay earlier this year. Arguello is a prototypical clay courter who at times struggles to control his emotions. He’s compiled a 94-44 record on the dirt since 2013, at the challenger and futures level, but he’s a pedestrian 1-9 at the main draw ATP level on clay since 2013, thus he’s been one of those players who has struggled to bridge the gap between the minor leagues and the top level.
Arguello models his game after former French Open Champion Gaston Gaudio, a fellow Argentine who has coached him at times and served as his advisor in recent years. When playing Murray, he will seek to channel the underdog spirit of Gaudio to make it a competitive match, but he’s another player who will need to make a break through soon if he is to take his career to the next level and not remain at the level he’s at.
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