The hunt continues for Australian male singles tennis glory after the Australian Open wrapped up on Sunday.
It only adds to an increasingly arduous patch for Australia in the Open where only two men have seen quarter final action from the host country in the last 20 years (Nick Kyrgios, 2015 and Lleyton Hewitt, 2005).
Aussie tennis still saw massive success however, with sensation Ash Barty winning her first ever Australian Open title and the duo of Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios achieving doubles glory in the same tournament.
These achievements however hold a grim reflection on the male singles and its current situation.
That’s not to say that Australia doesn’t have the talent in the current top 10 of the nation’s rankings that could reach that next level. With choices young, old and all in between, it’s a case of which of these 10 players could one day be among the likes of Barty and become the leading player in their pool.
John Millman, the oldest player in the top 10 for Australia, is still playing great tennis. He was sent out of the Open in the second round by third seed Alexander Zverev and as recently as 2020, won his first ever ATP title. At 32 however, it seems unlikely Millman will be able to turn his fortunes around and challenge for a Slam title, with a career high ATP singles ranking of 33rd.
James Duckworth has been quite unfortunate over his singles career. After ranking as high as number seven in his junior career, he never quite reached the same heights. His best finish in a Grand Slam came in 2021 with a third round exit at Wimbledon. While doubtful to be the player to win it for Australia, he does currently sit in second spot in the Australian top 10.
Both Jordan Thompson and Alex Bolt are still under 30, but have struggled to make a dent in their singles careers. With career high rankings of 43 and 125 respectively, some serious change would be needed for the two to come up against the greats.
This section holds the players that could very well begin challenging, but at the same time may begin to fade off.
Alexei Popyrin is only 22-years-old, and is currently just six place behind his highest singles ranking ever, at 65th. Despite this, the average audience would not recognise his name and as such he doesn’t receive as much attention and praise.
Popyrin won his first title in Singapore in 2021 and will only look to improve in 2022 and beyond, proving he may well find himself very high up the rankings in the near future.
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Aleksandar Vukic is another of these players, where the attention is not always on him. He is currently at his highest ranking of 140th, and had his best performance at a Grand Slam in this year’s Australian Open. The door is always open for Vukic to improve.
As of recent times, Max Purcell could have also been classed along with Popyrin and Vukic. However, his recent doubles final against the ‘Special Ks’ alongside Matthew Ebden has put his name into the public’s eye. Purcell hasn’t yet made his mark as a singles competitor like he has in the doubles, but at only 23 he still has plenty of time to make his own career.
This may be contentious, but the term ‘wildcard’ defines Nick Kyrgios. He may have gone the deepest into a singles Slam of every player in the Top 10, with his quarter final finish in the 2015 Australian Open, but it truly depends on which Kyrgios turns up each day.
He is without a doubt one of the best players in Australian tennis when he is on, but often enough his swinging attitude and bombastic personality can be the difference.
In saying that, his ability to excite the crowd is exactly what drives his tennis, and he plays his best when he is a showman for the audience, as seen in his recent Australian Open doubles campaign.
With a highest ATP ranking of 13th, Kyrgios is certainly the wildest of wildcards, and on his day, a genuine chance at Grand Slam glory.
The main chances
One half of the ‘Special Ks’, Thanasi Kokkinakis is currently playing some of his best tennis since 2015. Both the doubles Grand Slam and his first ATP title this year can only fuel Kokkinakis into returning to his best form, and gives him a chance to take after his partner with some solid singles play.
He is sitting outside of the top 100 at the moment, but based on recent form, he is looking only to improve and start to challenge, even after a disappointing effort in his Aus Open singles campaign.
And finally, Australia’s highest ranked player, Alex de Minaur. De Minaur sits at 33rd in the ATP rankings and was as high as 15th in 2021, while still being only 22-years-old. He has won five singles titles in his short career, and is coached by the legendary Lleyton Hewitt, so he understands a winning mentality.
De Minaur was the last hope for Australia in the Open men’s singles, in which he reached the fourth round (a career best in Slams) before falling to highly touted Italian Jannik Sinner.
The ‘Demon’ is much more low-key in his approach to his game, rarely losing his cool and having his mentor Hewitt’s approach to never give up on a match.
These attributes make him the man to carry the hopes of a nation with him, as he hopes to become the first Australian since 2002 to win a Grand Slam men’s singles title.
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