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The Breakthrough Campaign of Arthur Fils

Arthur Fils in action ahead of the ATP Antwerp Open.

Arthur Fils began the 2023 season ranked World No. 251. The talent was there, but he was yet to break through to the semifinal stage of a Challenger and his ranking wasn’t high enough to play Australian Open qualifying. In basically just two months, the 19-year-old set the world on fire and started producing a main tour impact that currently makes him by far the best teenager on the planet.

Back-to-back ATP semifinals by February, first title

Fils began the year on a nine-match win streak, very quickly overcoming that quarterfinal hurdle he used to have on the Challenger Tour (four losses at that stage in 2022). He claimed his maiden Challenger title in Oeiras before going on to post another final in Quimper, getting rather comfortably defeated by Gregoire Barrere. The jump he made was clear, though, and the 19-year-old soon announced himself to the general public by making back-to-back ATP 250 semifinals in Montpellier and Marseille. Veterans like Richard Gasquet, Roberto Bautista Agut, or Stan Wawrinka all couldn’t even take a set off the young prospect, falling victim to his explosive forehand.

An injury slowed him down a bit at the beginning of the clay season, but Fils wasn’t to be held back for long. He got back in shape with runs at Aix-en-Provence (quarterfinal) and Rome (2nd round from the qualifying), before becoming a major headline at the ATP 250 in Lyon. As a Wildcard for the main draw, he was a bit fortunate with Mikael Ymer getting defaulted and Felix Auger-Aliassime withdrawing ahead of their quarterfinal. But near the finish line, he once again showed what he’s made of, overcoming cramps in a thrilling deciding set tie-break against Brandon Nakashima and defeating Francisco Cerundolo to grab his maiden ATP Tour title.

Forehand masterclass against Ruud, heaviest shot on tour?

The remaining part of Fils’s season wasn’t that consistent, although he still managed a few big highlights. The Frenchman found two wins against top 10 players, first beating Casper Ruud in one of the most ridiculous individual performances of the 2023 season. The heavy forehand was just absurd with 25 winners in just 16 games (35 overall). He also took out Stefanos Tsitsipas in Antwerp, playing a very sound match tactically to target the Greek’s weaknesses with his spin-heavy shots. That event was his second ATP Tour final (Fils lost 4-6 4-6 to Alexander Bublik).

Fils wrapped up his 2023 campaign in style when he finished runner-up to Hamad Medjedovic at the Next Gen Finals. He performed extremely well in the Basecamp off-court competition that was held there to measure the athletes’ athletic ability and had some stunning moments along the way like the 3rd set tie-break against Luca Van Assche, where his average speed off the forehand was up to 149 km/h. According to data from Rome this year, his forehand is literally the spinniest shot on tour as well, giving it a pretty unbelievable combination of RPM, power, and even margin for error (if he has enough time to produce the swing with his extreme grip).

Data compiled by @Vestige_du_jour on Twitter/X

Looking ahead

Going into 2024, Fils will be looking to improve his performances at the Slams. While he definitely landed some tough draws (Alejandro Davidovich Fokina at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon, Tallon Griekspoor and Matteo Arnaldi at the US Open), he’ll want to start producing wins at the Majors on a more regular basis next year (1-3 record so far). There’s still untapped potential in his serve and he’s trying to turn his backhand into either a proper weapon or just a consistent rally tool. If he can combine that with adjusting his forehand grip a bit better in quicker conditions, the results will keep coming. Along with his personality, it seems like Fils has the full package to become a star of this sport if he keeps up his upward trajectory.

Main Photo Credit: Jerry Lai – USA TODAY Sports


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