One must wonder where the next men’s Australian Grand Slam winner will come from, with Lleyton Hewitt’s 2001 US Open and 2002 Wimbledon wins standing alone this century. For a country steeped in sporting success, and more precisely tennis success, this near 20-year hiatus appears baffling. Going back before Hewitt, famous names such as Patrick Rafter, Pat Cash, and John Newcombe appear, and even earlier the famous Rod Laver, who won 11 Slams. As the present time the Australian public are familiar with names such as Nick Kyrgios, Bernard Tomic, Alex De Minaur and John Millman, who currently shoulder their hopes of success.
At the present time the Australian ranking sequence stands as: de Minaur (32), James Duckworth (49), Alexei Popyrin (65), Thompson (73), Millman (89), Thanasi Kokkinakis (103), Kyrgios (115), and then the third-round wild card Christopher O’Connell (146). This is an intriguing group of players who are at vastly different stages of their careers. It is undeniable that there is talent in that list, and particularly young talent, but that might matter if there’s no success at the pinnacle of the sport.
The Future of Australian Men’s Tennis
Di Minaur is quite rightly perceived as the most promising of the batch, already achieving a highest singles ranking of #15, back in June last year. At just 22 years of age, Di Minaur has a bright future. But hestill has much work to do, only reaching one Grand Slam quarterfinal, at the 2020 US Open. Di Minaur might feel he missed out on an opportunity to make another final in front of his home crowd after facing Jannik Sinner in the fourth round last week. However, Di Minaur lost in three sets to the Italian, who subsequently fell in three sets to Stefanos Tsitsipas, showing that he’s not at the level to challenge deep into a Grand Slam just yet.
Another young talent, backed to have an impressive tournament, is 22-year-old Alexei Popyrin. Popyrin is different from Di Minaur as he expresses more power and a completely different game. However, he exited in the first round.
Kyrgios and Kokkinakis were recently crowned doubles champions of the Australian Open. Not many would have seen that coming. This pairing has played innovative, exciting tennis, rubbing a few people the wrong way along the way. Before the tournament began, Kokkinakis won his first title at the Adelaide International, perfectly preparing himself for the Australian Open. However, he lost to Yannick Hanfmann, ranked #143, likely a disappointing result for the Australian. His counterpart, Kyrgios, contracted COVID just a week out from the open, impairing his preparation. He looked impressive early in the tournament, but his loss to Medvedev in the second round confirmed some past critics.
The Problems with Nick Kyrgios
Kyrgios has always looked a top tennis player, top 10-20 on his day. However, he has struggled against the big players in Slams. There’s no denying that Kyrgios is an excitement machine, but there appeared to be the same weaknesses in his game that we have seen in the past, including his net play, and at times his returning. Kyrgios; ranking certainly hasn’t been helped by extended poor run of injury, often resulting in him coming up against a top player early in tournaments, in this case Medvedev. As Kokkinakis and Kyrgios claimed a brilliant first doubles title, one must wonder where their singles careers go from here, and where they want their careers to go. Always brilliant viewing, irrespective of the viewer’s perspective, and always out to entertain, this doubles competition suits Kyrgios and Kokkinakis perfectly, able to let their hair down and have fun.
As the sun sets on another Australian Open, the plethora of Australian talent ages another year. Will they break through this season? It may be up to them.
Main Photo from Getty.