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Fabian Marozsan Emerging as Best of Hungarian ‘Golden Generation’

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If you’ve never heard of the “Hungarian Golden Generation,” that’s likely as it’s a term coined by myself and probably not used by anyone else. While Hungary’s highest-ranked player ever is still the two-time Grand Slam doubles champion and former singles World No. 12 Balazs Taroczy (and Marton Fucsovics is still going strong on the Tour), it’s pretty unbelievable that in just two birth years (1998-1999), this less than ten-million-person country managed to produce three players as talented as Fabian Marozsan, Zsombor Piros, and Mate Valkusz. All three have, in one way or another, demonstrated their incredible potential. But it’s Marozsan, who for a long while seemed like the weakest of the three, who’s now emerging as the one who’s there to stay at the top of the professional game.

Junior success for Piros and Valkusz, wild card opportunities

Marozsan and Piros were born within five days of each other; Valkusz is exactly fourteen months older than the latter. In 2016, it was the eldest of the Hungarian Golden Generation who made it to World No. 1 in the ITF Junior Rankings, despite relatively average results at the Grand Slam level (one singles quarterfinal, two doubles semifinals). Piros never held the No. 1 ranked spot, but ended his junior career with two Major titles – 2017 Australian Open in singles and 2017 French Open in doubles with Nicola Kuhn. Marozsan, for whom it will become a bit of a theme here, was behind the pack with a best ranking of World No. 53 and no Grand Slam appearances.

Valkusz quickly confirmed his reputation as a strong prospect with a Challenger final he made in Cordenons 2018. Having turned 20 during that run, the former Junior World No. 1 went on an absolute tear in that event, coming through the qualifying draw and at one point losing just one game in two consecutive main draw matches. He also pushed Paolo Lorenzi in the final and no one thought that it would take him almost five years to reach that stage of a Challenger event again.

The belief in Piros and Valkusz also manifested itself in the amount of wildcards they received for local events. The latter had two opportunities at the ATP 250 in Budapest (one in the qualifying) and two at the Challenger held in the capital of Hungary as well. Piros had the exact same situation. Marozsan had just one lone qualifying wildcard to the Budapest Challenger in 2017. These decisions might look wrong in hindsight, but they were completely justified by the pace at which all three players were progressing at the time.

Injury setbacks, great summer two years ago

Marozsan was slowly but steadily making improvements though and in a few years, he managed to catch up with his two compatriots. Piros and Valkusz were often held back by injury issues. The former suffers a physical setback basically anytime he manages to piece a few runs together, sometimes resulting in horrible scenes like his last year’s match against Hong Chung in Seoul, when he left the court in tears due to back pain. Valkusz is usually struggling in longer three-set matches and has also had major problems with his shoulder, being forced to serve with a forehand drive instead of the usual motion on a few occasions.

It so happened that all three players had a strong summer of 2021. They were often featuring in the same events too, so that year we actually got all three combinations of head-to-head matches as Marozsan lost to both Piros and Valkusz twice, while it was the oldest of the Hungarians who remained unbeaten in these clashes (3-0). The end of that year ended up being especially huge for Piros, who impressed with his Davis Cup heroics (upsets over Marin Cilic and John Millman) and made his maiden Challenger final.

Challenger titles within a year of one another

The most recent similarity between the careers of the Hungarian Golden Generation was when they all claimed their maiden Challenger titles between July 2022 and May 2023. The first to do so was Piros, who has also compiled three more trophies at that level since (Tampere, Gwangju, Split, Oeiras). Marozsan picked his up in a relatively weaker event in Banja Luka during US Open qualifying, but his level was obviously strong enough for more competitive fields too and he has since found two more Challenger titles (Antalya, Perugia). Valkusz was the last to achieve this feat in Skopje earlier this season.

But it’s Marozsan who’s also managed to make a large main Tour splash since. Valkusz is really impressive in his natural talent and aggressive shotmaking, but he’s been struggling to make that happen against players who can come at him with steady pace and keep him on the back foot (he was also injured recently again, US Open qualifying being his first event in two months). Piros is more of a counter-puncher and while he made a big leap when he added more pop to his baseline game in that aforementioned summer of 2021, the fitness issues have been preventing him from breaking the top 100 (he’s still very close at the moment, despite having to miss the qualifying event in New York).

Marozsan stands alone now?

So, how did Marozsan separate himself from the pack? He’s definitely a lot more imposing than the other two. Valkusz in theory presents a pretty similar style, but he can’t overwhelm his opposition in the same way his colleague can. Marozsan’s style has a huge consistency drawback, but the best example of how threatening he can be is his defeat of Carlos Alcaraz in Rome this year.

He came out with his usual balls-to-the-wall aggression and managed to take the game to the Spaniard, never tightening up or thinking of changing up his strategy. His timing off the ground is just unreal and on clay, the dropshot emerges as an absolutely spectacular tool. It’s usually Alcaraz who uses that as a weapon and makes his opponents wonder if the next strike will be a powerful blow or just a soft brush of the ball. This time he was the one caught in two minds as he had no idea how to respond to Marozsan’s brilliance.

First Grand Slam win

At the US Open, the Hungarian managed to defeat Richard Gasquet 6-3 6-1 6-7 6-7 6-2 on Monday for his first Grand Slam main draw win. It could have been so much easier, but he tightened up at 6-3 6-1 5-3 and the veteran Frenchman was suddenly scrambling around the court like a teenager and making every ball. But even with being taken to five, it was still an unbelievable showing from the 23-year-old.

He managed to land 93 winners overall and especially off the forehand side, he just kept blasting them left and right (32 groundstroke winners plus 9 on the approach shot off that wing). Any mid-length ball down the middle would just end with Marozsan running around his backhand quickly and finding an inside-in or an inside-out kill shot. While the trademark dropshot was not at its peak efficiency, it was surely one of the best serving performances that he has ever produced.

Gasquet had no response and it was extremely reassuring to see that the 23-year-old can also hand out a beating like that to a quality player off-clay. While Piros and Valkusz are definitely yet to hit their peak potential (especially if they ever sort out the fitness problems), it’s fair to say by now that Marozsan is the one who has the biggest chance at becoming a tour-level mainstay.

Main Photo Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports


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