top of page

ARE WE EXPERIENCING A RENAISSANCE IN AUSSIE MEN'S TENNIS?



Recently in Monte-Carlo, Alex de Minaur and Alexei Popyrin became the first Australians to reach the third round of the singles event since Lleyton Hewitt and Wayne Arthurs achieved the feat in 2004.


De Minaur went on to reach the quarterfinals, making him the first Australian to reach that stage since Mark Philippoussis in 1999.


A breakthrough tournament for the Aussies, but by no means in isolation capable of justifying a claim that Australian men’s tennis is experiencing a ‘renaissance’.


Australia is of course a country rich with tennis history, but without a men’s singles grand slam champion since 2002, the assumption that men’s tennis in the country is experiencing somewhat of a rut is easy to make.


However, when considering the number and magnitude of Aussie men success stories over the last 12 months, the possibility that the current generation of players are raising the bar when compared to recent years comes into sharper focus. 


An assessment of both the individuals at the forefront, as well as the depth of talent further down the rankings, suggest that Australian men’s tennis may actually be in as good of a position as it has been for many years.


Alex de Minaur

Unsurprisingly, ‘the Demon’ is leading the way.


De Minaur has made a spectacular start to the season, with highlights including making his top 10 debut, reaching the second week of the Australian Open, beating Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal (on clay!), and defending his Acapulco title.


By breaking into the top 10, de Minaur became the first Australian man to hold a top 10 ranking since Lleyton Hewitt in July 2006. 


The significance of de Minaur’s success should not be understated.


Whilst not being blessed with the sheer talent possessed by the likes of Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic, the Demon’s achievements reflect a tireless work ethic and desire to maximise his personal outcomes.

 

Jordan Thompson

Attracting fewer headlines than de Minaur, but similarly achieving a series of career highs in 2024 is Jordan Thompson.


‘Thommo’ has made winning a habit in 2024, posting a 16-10 record in singles so far, as well as capturing three doubles titles.


The highlight of Thompson’s season has no doubt been claiming the first ATP singles title of his career in Los Cabos, defeating Alexander Zverev and Casper Ruud in the semi-finals and final respectively.


The Sydneysider also has a win over Nadal to his name, all of which has combined to reward him with a career-high ranking of #32.


Alexei Popyrin

The other player reaching the third round at Monte Carlo was Alexei Popyrin. 


The former junior Roland Garros champion defeated defending champion Andrey Rublev in the second round, in what was one of the best wins of his young career.


Popyrin is yet another player to have achieved a career high ranking in 2024, entering the top 40 for the first time after his run to the semi-finals at the Qatar Open. 


Thanks to Popyrin reaching that career high ranking, three Australian men were positioned inside the world’s top 40 for the first time since February 2020.

 

The rest of the top 100

Five other Australian men currently sit inside the top 100 of the ATP rankings.


Chris O’Connell, Aleksandar Vukic, Rinky Hijikata and Max Purcell all enjoyed the best seasons of their careers in 2023. 2024 is all about maintaining their top 100 spot and pushing higher, so we have a bigger top 50 crop. The competition is tough and the margins are small.

Thansi Kokkinakis with a Challenger title in the last fortnight is back inside the top 100 as he grinds against tough opposition in that 50-100 rankings bracket. James Duckworth currently sits on the cusp of returning to the top 100 having made his way back from yet another injury.


The eight Australian men currently ranked inside the top 100 also ended 2023 in that position, with the lowest ranked being Hijikata at #71


For context, the last time Australia finished a calendar year with eight or more men ranked inside the top 100 was 1998.


The numbers suggest Aussie men’s tennis is not just surviving with the help of one or two stand-out talents, but rather thriving beneath the surface.


Adding to the positives is the fact that all eight top 100 players are still under the age of 30.


The prospect of a substantial collective of Australians, competing not just in Australian and lower-tier events but the majority of big tournaments around the world, is a situation which has not been seen for a generation.

 

Digging deeper

Outside of the top 100, Australia has another 12 men ranked inside the top 300.


Only Italy, France, Argentina and the US have more. 


Adam Walton is the stand-out amongst the next crop, having improved his ranking to a career-high #119 this year as of today.


Walton has progressed rapidly over the past two years, from no ranking in July 2022 having gone down the college path to hitting the ground running at ITF level up to Challenger level.


This year notably making his way through qualifying at two separate ATP events in 2024 to boost his ranking by over 50 places, along with his success at Challenger Level making three finals so far by April.


Meanwhile, Dane Sweeney and Tristan Skoolkate are still just 23 years old.  Both have reached the quarterfinals or better at three separate Challenger events in 2024, whilst Sweeney also qualified for the Australian Open. They are hoping that 2024 is the year they can find a permanent spot in the top 200, which Dane has had a taste of.


Conversely, Omar Jasika and Bernard Tomic are experiencing what could be described as their own personal renaissances, with Jasika’s run through Australian Open qualifying and two title wins at Challenger and ITF level attracting plenty of headlines, whilst Tomic’s ranking is as high as it has been in almost three years.


Li Tu has also boosted his ranking more than 30 spots since the start of the year, whilst the youngest of the Aussie contingent is Philip Sekulic at just 20 years of age, having moved from outside the top 500 to the cusp of the top 250 in the space of 12 months.

 

A renaissance?

However you slice it, Australian tennis fans have a lot of reasons for optimism right now.


With representation right at the top of the game, depth in the top 100, plus a crop of players seemingly on the edge of a breakthrough further down the rankings, the professional men’s game appears to be a in relatively healthy state. 


Even if Alex de Minaur is unable to take the next steps into the top five and truly contending for Grand Slam titles, the number of elite-level players Australia has produced suggests the key foundations, predominantly at the grassroots level, remain in place and conducive to future success.


Considering the decades that have passed since anything resembling the current circumstances have existed, labelling the current state of Aussie men’s tennis a ‘renaissance’ seems just.

コメント


bottom of page