As the Australian Open begins, there are plenty of #NextGenATP stars to watch. ATPTour.com looks at five of them before the start of the season’s first major.
The Spaniard has come a long way since he last competed in the Australian Open. In 2021, Alcaraz qualified for his first major main draw at the event, where he defeated Dutchman Botic van de Zandschulp in the first round before losing against Swede Mikael Ymer in four sets in the second round. At the time, he was No. 141 in the ATP Rankings.
Now Alcaraz is World No. 33, one spot off his career-best. The 18-year-old capped off his 2021 by triumphing at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan. That was just one of several impressive efforts throughout the season, though. Alcaraz made the US Open quarter-finals, upsetting Stefanos Tsitsipas in a fifth-set tie-break in the third round. He also lifted his first ATP Tour trophy in Umag.
Seeded 31st in Melbourne, Alcaraz will try to get off to a good start against Chilean ATP Cup star Alejandro Tabilo, who came through qualifying. The first seeded opponent the Spaniard could face is seventh seed Matteo Berrettini.
One of the most intriguing first-round clashes pits the American against seventh seed Berrettini. The Italian has the edge in experience and has consistently made deep runs at the majors, including his run to last year’s Wimbledon final. But when firing, Nakashima has proven he has the game to play with some of the best players on Tour.
Last year, he lost in the first round of qualifying at the Australian Open against eventual main draw semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev. The American went on to make his first two ATP Tour finals in Los Cabos and Atlanta and climbed as high as No. 62 in the ATP Rankings.
Nakashima upset John Isner in the first round of the US Open, and already showed good form this year with a victory against Italian veteran Fabio Fognini in Sydney. Will he cause waves again, this time Down Under?
The Italian has happy memories in Melbourne. In 2019, Musetti claimed the Australian Open Boys’ Singles title. He lost in qualifying in his first two appearances as a professional, but the 19-year-old is ready to make his debut.
Musetti will face a tough foe in home favourite Alex de Minaur, the 32nd seed, in the first round. De Minaur is a fiery competitor throughout the season, but especially on home soil. Musetti will need to use every tool in his arsenal to throw off his Australian opponent.
The 2021 Milan competitor has not won consecutive matches since reaching the fourth round at Roland Garros last year. But this is a perfect opportunity for the Italian to conjure a big performance and get back on track.
The 18-year-old Dane, currently No. 102 in the ATP Rankings, is on the verge of cracking the Top 100 for the first time. He will look to continue his ascent with a good performance in Melbourne, where he will play his first Australian Open as a professional.
Rune began 2021 just inside the world’s Top 500. But he enjoyed a breakthrough season, during which he became the youngest ATP Tour quarter-finalist in seven years by making the last eight in Santiago. The Milan competitor will try to get off to a good start against South Korean Soonwoo Kwon.
Don’t expect the Grand Slam stage to frighten Rune. The first time the teen tried to qualify for a major was at last year’s US Open, and not only did he successfully qualify, but he pushed Novak Djokovic to four sets inside Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Juan Manuel Cerundolo
The Argentine lefty is set to make his major main draw debut against Czech qualifier Tomas Machac. Cerundolo, who claimed his first ATP Tour title on the clay of Cordoba last year, is competing at the Australian Open for the first time as a professional.
The 20-year-old will rely on his big-stage experience after competing at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in November. He earned his first tour-level win on hard courts (1-4) two weeks ago in Adelaide against Australian Alex Bolt.