Isner’s Victory Aside, Miami Open Shows Rise of ATP Next Gen

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John Isner, 32, won his first ever Masters 1000 title in Miami, the biggest victory of his career and a big result for American tennis, with Isner and Jack Sock having won two of the past three Masters 1000 tournaments.

That result aside, the 2018 Miami Open really showcased the rise of the ATP’s next gen, as Alexander Zverev reached a third Masters title in less than 12 months, in the process the young German beat three fellow next-gen players, Daniil Medvedev, Nick Kyrgios, and Borna Coric, his win over Medvedev coming in a third set tiebreak.

Zverev was joined by Coric, and Hyeon Chung, an IW quarterfinalist, in the quarterfinals, as Chung didn’t drop a set before losing to Isner and Coric backed up a semifinal result in Indian Wells with three straight three set wins to reach the quarters. Two of those victories came against Jack Sock and Denis Shapovalov.

Chung has posted a consistent season and already has 17 wins, while Coric is 8-2 in his last two Masters 1000 tournaments, claiming wins over Kevin Anderson and Roberto Bautista Agut at IW.

The aforementioned Shapovalov is 10-7 on the season and beat Sam Querrey in Miami, his rise hasn’t been as sharp as the names above, but he could reach Grand Slam seeding by the US Open.

Nick Kyrgios rose the fastest of any of the next-gen talents, but injuries and attitude problems have challenged him over the past few months. In his return to tour after a few weeks off, he won a pair of matches and fell to Zverev in the third round, he should still be expected to make an impact during the grass court season.

Kyrgios countryman Thanasi Kokkinakis drew headlines, posting the biggest win of his career against world #1 Roger Federer in Miami. He lost in the next round, but in the match against Federer he lived up to his potential and didn’t back down in all three sets. Back healthy, Kokkinakis is expected to rise up to the level of his next-gen peers by the end of 2018.

American fans would do good to celebrate the result of Frances Tiafoe in Miami as well, after winning his maiden ATP title in Delray earlier this year, Tiafoe returned to Florida and won three matches in Miami, including an upset of steady veteran Tomas Berdych to reach the fourth round.

With Andy Murray injured, and neither Novak Djokovic nor Rafael Nadal in great form, the pathway is open for the first next-gen Grand Slam champion. Zverev would seem most likely given his results in the past 12 months, but Kyrgios has a lot of spark, and it could be any number of the previous group that catches fire for two weeks and makes history. For my part I’d back Chung, the steadiest of the next-gen group, and perhaps the most underappreciated.

Just a few months into 2018, it appears the ATP’s next-gen is finally taking their place in elite of the game, and starting to surpass the performances of the ATP’s veteran core. The results are shown not just in big marquee wins, but in consistent back to back performances at the highest level. The next test will be the Grand Slam stage.

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