Tag: Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune

Young guns to watch on the ITF Tour

THE International Tennis Federation (ITF) is well and truly stacked with developing talent, and Draft Central is beginning to delve into the young guns coming up through the ranks emphasising those who have burst onto the scene and showcased some exciting qualities in their junior years. While many of these players are beginning to feed into the ATP and WTA Tours, there are some great youngsters who are yet to break into the fold and will look to build on their 2020 form heading into the new year. All rankings are as of November 30, 2020,

Junior boys

Carlos Alcaraz (ESP)

Age: 17
ATP Tour ranking: 141

An exciting youngster looking to really break onto the ATP Tour scene is Alcaraz, with the developing Spaniard proving he is more than capable of producing excellent wins. With five titles to his name in 2020, including three clay court Challengers to go with his two M15 hard court titles, there is no doubt Alcaraz has the star power to continue propelling himself up the rankings and hitting some real strides.

Lorenzo Musetti (ITA)

Age: 18
ATP Tour ranking: 128

The young Italian is the second ranked youngster on the ATP Tour at the moment, and it shows in his consistency and drive to continue going one better. While still developing his craft and looking to continue his strong efforts against top 100 players, Musetti has showcased plenty of potential on Tour since debuting in 2019, and will look to keep his strong run going in 2021.

Brandon Nakashima (USA)

Age: 19
ATP Tour ranking:
166

American youngster Nakashima is a talent worth keeping an eye on, with the ability to be the next big thing credit to his high work rate and powerful swing. Like Musetti, Nakashima’s ability to shock top 100 players has been a key to developing his skill, flourishing on wildcard entries and using his athleticism to fly out of the blocks. Currently at his peak ranking and steadily developing, look to see Nakashima continue well into 2021.

Harold Mayot (FRA)

Age: 18
ITF Tour ranking:
1
ATP Tour ranking: 
426

ITF world number one Mayot is an exciting developing talent, with the 2020 Junior Australian Open title under his belt and a proven winning ability. With plenty of tenacity and determination, Mayot still has a way to go before truly impacting on the ATP Tour scene, but there is no doubt he will get there once he further develops against strong, more experienced bodies.

Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune (DEN)

Age: 17
ITF Tour ranking: 2
ATP Tour ranking: 511

A consistent performer on the ITF Tour, Rune is one to watch in the future. While he did not win a Challenger tournament, as was his 2020 goal, three M15 titles on the senior ITF Tour is certainly nothing to sniff about. More than that, and it proves the 17-year-old is more than capable of competing against those bigger bodies in the future, especially on his preferred surface of clay.

Dominic Stephan Stricker (SUI)

Age: 18
ITF Tour ranking: 3

While Stricker is yet to really break onto the ATP Tour scene, the youngster has proven he is ready to step up to the next level and with a current ranking of third on the ITF rankings, there is no doubt he has the capacity to do so when he gets an opportunity – and an uninterrupted season. A Junior Roland Garros title in 2020 and the likes of Roger Federer to look up to certainly will aid in his progression heading into 2021.

Junior girls

Coco Gauff (USA)

Age: 16
WTA Tour ranking: 48

One of the most high profile young guns in the world at the moment, Gauff is the gift that keeps on giving with her rate of development and potential given how far she has come in such a short time. Still just 16-years-old, Gauff’s  ability to leave it all on the court and command victory as an underdog – including two straight sets victories over Venus Williams – have seen her rocket into media attention.

Daria Lopatetska (UKR)

Age: 17
WTA Tour ranking: 355

Another exciting youngster breaking onto the scene is Lopatetska, with the versatile Ukrainian able to put out excellent efforts across a range of surfaces and, even with an interrupted season following on from major knee surgery in 2019, has showcased plenty of grit and determination to get back out there. With a heap of potential and Elina Svitolina on her side, it is only a matter of time before Lopatetska is back on the cards.

Katrina Scott (USA)

Age: 16
WTA Tour ranking: 447

Scott may still be only 16-years-old, but her exciting potential has seen her rocket into contention on the WTA Tour alongside Gauff, following her compatriot’s footsteps onto the senior rankings well before expected. A competitive youngster who has showed no signs of stopping since her debut at the 2020 US Open as a wildcard, expect Scott to continue developing and keep the USA superpower going as she heads up the rankings.

Polina Kudermetova (RUS)

Age: 17
ITF Tour ranking: 6
WTA Tour ranking: 775

The younger sister of Veronika Kudermetova, there is no doubt 17-year-old Polina knows what it takes really break onto the WTA Tour stage. While she has not really made it there yet – in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic and limited court time – the Russian youngster is a proven winner throughout the years and, with an ability to fight every second, will look to continue developing with more time in 2021.

Elsa Jacquemot (FRA)

Age: 17
ITF Tour ranking: 1
WTA Tour ranking: 535

The 2020 Junior Roland Garros winner and current world number one on the junior ITF Tour, Jacquemot is one to watch in the future. With two titles to her name in 2020 and a whopping 89 per cent win rate – 12 straight on clay – the French 17-year-old may not have broken onto the WTA Tour just yet but certainly has the proven winning ability to be a huge threat on Tour.

Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva (AND)

Age: 15
ITF Tour ranking: 2

The youngest player on this list is 15-year-old Andorran Jimenez Kasintseva, and while she is still developing her court craft there is no denying she is a star of the future, holding the Junior Australian Open title in 2020 and only leaving top spot on the ITF rankings when Jacquemot took out the Roland Garros title. With an overall win rate of 88 per cent and just three losses on tour, expect big things from the young gun.

ATP Teenage Stars – Dominic Stephan Stricker

YET another developing talent who has found plenty of form on the ITF circuit is 18-year-old Dominic Stephan Stricker, hailing from Switzerland with one of the greatest players of all time to look up to ahead of him. But while Roger Federer is heading towards the latter stages of his career, Stricker’s is just beginning with the young gun showcasing his array of talents in 2020 on both the junior and senior ITF tours.

With four wins from seven matches on the men’s tour, there is no doubt Stricker has a way to go before he can realistically match it with the elite talent on the ATP Tour stage. But while the left-hander had some issues against the bigger, more experienced bodies on the senior circuit, a quarter final berth at the Junior Australian Open – losing to eventual winner, Harold Mayot – and huge Junior Roland Garros title in October propelled Stricker into the top ranked juniors, sitting third at year’s end only behind Mayot and Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune.

While Federer is arguably still top dog for Stricker when it comes to influences, he is one on a list of many after the 18-year-old had the opportunity to train alongside the ATP Tour’s elite players as a hitting partner at the ATP Finals.

“It was unbelievable at the ATP Finals,” Stricker told itftennis.com. “I was there for two weeks and it was an amazing experience to hit with (Dominic) Thiem, (Daniil) Medvedev, (Stefanos) Tsitsipas and (Andrey) Rublev – four of the best players in the world. I really enjoyed every practice and learned so much.

“It really was something special. I learned so much: how players of that calibre play the day before a match, go about things the day of the match and how they warm up. I feel it will help me, for sure. I really did enjoy every single minute.”

While the interrupted season has been rough for many, it was one to remember for Stricker, who not only came away with the junior grand slam title, but also showcased his high ceiling and excellent work rate to develop so thoroughly during the extended break.

“It was a special season and a hard one for everyone as nobody really knew how many tournaments there would be or, at times, if there would be much tennis,” said Stricker. “Looking back, though, it was a very good year for me and I have improved a lot.

“I was so glad to get the chance to play one last Junior Grand Slam after the junior events at Wimbledon and the US Open were cancelled. I just went out there to try my best and I won it, which was a great achievement.

“While I don’t think there has been a huge difference, life has definitely changed since winning in Paris and a lot more people tend to recognise me on the Tour as a Junior Grand Slam champion. It’s been a memorable year.”

The youngster will look to officially break onto the ATP Tour scene in 2021, with ultimately nothing to lose after an exciting year on tour in his final season as a junior. While technically ranked on the ATP Tour at 1159th in the world – as at publish – Stricker has the capability to propel himself up the rankings and realistically, has nowhere to go but up from here on out.

“I haven’t really set a goal but I want to try and improve my ATP ranking and to start playing Challenger events,” added Stricker. “I just want to go as far as possible and, who knows, maybe go back to Paris and enjoy some more good times there.”

ATP Teenage Stars – Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune

SECOND on the ITF junior rankings, 17-year-old Dane Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune may still be young but is another with plenty of potential, with the 2019 Junior Roland Garros title behind him and the surface versatility to go far in the senior rankings. Still developing and currently sitting outside the top 500 on the ATP Tour, Rune has played just the five career matches on the senior Tour, with 2020 touted as a critical year for the young talent.

While his development against senior bodies – especially at the elite level given he has mostly laboured on the ITF circuit this year – has been impeded in 2020, there is no doubt he has found plenty of success sitting on a 67 per cent win rate for the year, with 27 of his 30 wins coming on clay. What Rune may lack in experience, he makes up for it in droves with his winning ability, with three clay court ITF M15 titles for the year. Factor in that he had not had any major success on the men’s tour prior to 2020, despite sharing his load between junior and men’s in late 2018 and throughout 2019, and Rune’s immense development in such a short time is a real testament to what he can do once he breaks onto the ATP Tour scene.

The youngster has all the makings of being a top talent on Tour, and a win against Benoit Paire in late November well and truly proved that – Rune’s first official top 100 encounter, and effectively maiden top 30 victory, too.

“It was brilliant,” Rune wrote in a blogpost on the ITF website. “I was down two match points in the third set and I came up with two crazy passing shots and suddenly the match was mine. It is something I will always remember as it was my first Top 30 win.

“Benoit is a cool guy and his serve is amazing. It was a fantastic experience for me and we were also very lucky that spectators are allowed at sporting events in Denmark, so it was lovely to play in front of a home crowd.”

While Rune’s plan for 2020 was to win a Challenger event, issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic, amongst border closures and strict restrictions, saw little opportunity for the Dane to achieve his goal. But the driven 17-year-old says that watching other young players perform on the ATP Tour and achieve their goals kept his hunger alive.

“Thanks to the young guys on Tour I can see a pathway and I’m working towards big things happening. If I keep improving and having good results, the Next Generation ATP Finals in 2021 are possible and an aim of mine.

“There are no guarantees of success in life, but it helps a lot when you can actually see yourself on the way up, there is a clear goal and the road you need to take is realistic as long as you put in the work.”