Five Outsiders Who Could Challenge at SW19

Men’s tennis has become a predictable affair in recent years as Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer have shared the last 10 Grand Slams between them. All three are in the twilights of their careers and yet their stranglehold on the game is absolute. The younger generation always flatters to deceive in big tournaments and players like Djokovic are able to swat them aside in almost contemptuous fashion. It could not be further from the women’s game, which is thrillingly unpredictable right now. Boris Becker, who was just 17 when he won Wimbledon for the first time, has called on the younger players to show up and challenge at this year’s event. Here are five outsiders that just might usurp the Big Three at Wimbledon:

Stefanos Tsitsipas

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The 20-year-old Greek prodigy has shot up to sixth in the world rankings after dazzling with his aggressive baseline play this year. He announced himself as a force to be reckoned with when he stunned Federer in a four-set thriller at the Australian Open in January. He went all the way to the semi-finals on the back of a powerful backhand, sublime volleying skills, a hot serve, tremendous athleticism and unswerving self-belief. Those are all key attributes of a champion and he soon went on to win the Open 13 Provence, his second ATP Tour title.

Many see Germany’s Alexander Zverev as the next big thing in men’s tennis, but he has always struggled at Grand Slams and Tsitsipas is arguably the more exciting talent. His coolness under pressure makes him stand out and he should continue to improve as he grows more experienced and powerful. He is unfazed by taking on the world’s best players and he has already beaten Nadal and Djokovic during his fledgling career. Tennis will need a superstar to fill the void left by the Big Three when they retire and Tsitsipas is the prime candidate.

He began the grass court season with a shock defeat against Nicolas Jarry in Rosmalen this week, which is a little worrying. Yet he was uncharacteristically sluggish in that game and he should improve when he shakes of the rust going forwards. He is a 20/1 shot with several bookmakers to win Wimbledon and that might tempt a few punters ahead of the tournament.

Nick Kyrgios

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The bad boy of Australian tennis has wasted his vast potential thus far and it is time for him to knuckle down and deliver at a Grand Slam. He displays great flair, his serve is accurate and powerful, his forehand is a fantastic weapon and his backhand is strong and consistent. If he can channel his aggression in the right way, he could be a world-beater, but he too frequently descends into petulance and courts controversy with his antics. He is now 24 years old and it is time for him to improve his attitude and finally deliver on his promise.

Kyrgios has openly admitted that he does not “love tennis” and that he is not fully dedicated to the game. That is worrying for his backers, but he has previously beaten all the world’s biggest players, won plenty of tournaments and impressed the greats of the game. John McEnroe called him the most talented player he has seen in the last 10 years. Grass is his best surface and he has won 71% of his matches at Wimbledon, which is far better than his record at any other Slam.

Last year the experts at named him as one of the players most likely to thrive at the tournament, but he crashed out in the third round. He is now approaching his prime and it is time for him to step up.

Denis Shapovalov

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Shapovalov’s mother was on the Russian national tennis team before his parents moved to Israel amid the collapse of the Soviet Union. He was born in Tel Aviv, but moved to Canada before turning one. His mother picked up a job coaching tennis at the Richmond Hill Tennis club and Shapovalov quickly became obsessed with the sport. He won numerous futures tournaments and then caused the world to sit up and take notice when he landed the Wimbledon Junior Singles title in 2016, beating Alex De Minaur in the final.

The following year he qualified for Queen’s and pulled off a big upset against home favourite Kyle Edmund in the first round. His first meeting with a top 10 player came against Nadal in the August that year and he won it in style. He became the youngest player in 28 years to reach the fourth round of the US Open, beating eighth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the process. He broke into the world’s top 30 last year and made his first appearance at Wimbledon, where he lost in the second round. He is now 20 years of age, ranked 25th in the world and he reached the third round at the Australian Open this year. He has all the makings of a future champion and he could be in for his best-ever showing at a Grand Slam this month.

Felix Auger-Aliassime

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Auger-Aliassime is just 18 years old and he is the youngest man in the ATP top 100. He has shot up to 21st place and that is a remarkable achievement for such a young player. The young Canadian has already drawn heaps of praise from Federer, who hailed his forehand and attitude and described him as one of the big shot makers in the game. Canada could have a dominant Davis Cup team in future as he and Shapovalov mature.

Auger-Aliassime has only qualified for one previous Grand Slam, the 2018 US Open, and he lost in the first round. It would be a huge leap for him to win Wimbledon, but unseeded, unheralded players keep thriving in the women’s game and that should give him hope. He is an all-action player with a dangerous serve and phenomenal athleticism. His favourite surface is clay, but it will be interesting to see how he gets on during the grass-court season.

Kyle Edmund

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Andy Murray will not make it back from injury in time to compete in the men’s singles tournament at Wimbledon, so home fans will turn their attention to Kyle Edmund. The 24-year-old has been a mainstay in the top 30 for a couple of years now and he has a strong record at Grand Slams. He went to the semi-final at last year’s Australian Open and he has made it to the fourth round at Flushing Meadows and the third round at Wimbledon and Roland-Garros.

Edmund’s Wimbledon record is poor, as he has lost six of his nine matches there, but he will benefit from partisan crowds and favourable conditions. He has previously beaten Djokovic, but he has never managed to beat Federer, Nadal, Zverev, Juan Martin del Potro or Stan Wawrinka, so he will need to improve against the big players if he is to become a Grand Slam champion. He can generate plenty of spin and power on his forehand and that allows him to dominate several rallies. If he can improve upon his general fitness levels he can join the elite of the game and there is no better stage than Wimbledon on which to stake a claim for greatness.

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