There are many under-21 tennis players who have charged into the top 100 over the last year or so. They have brought a certain freshness to the proceedings in men's tennis, after more than a decade of dominance by the Big 4 of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
The most intriguing aspect about these emerging players is that they are fearless and have not only challenged the experienced players on the tour, but have also given each other all they can handle. They are giving birth to new rivalries and forging a new era in tennis, while simultaneously giving the Big 4 a run for their money.
Here's a more detailed look at three young players made a statement in 2018:
1. Stefanos Tsitsipas
Stefanos Tsitsipas had a tremendous season in 2018. He won the “Most improved player of the year” award from the ATP, and in general created a big slash with his brilliant shot-making.
The 20-year-old Greek was ranked 91 at the beginning of the season and has now reached up to number 15 in the world. He won 41 matches in 2018, as opposed to just four victories until 2017.
Tsitsipas won the first ATP title of his career at the Stockholm Open. By beating Ernests Gulbis in the final, the 20-year-old became the first Greek player to win an ATP title.
Tsitsipas started the year by reaching the quarterfinals of the Qatar Open and the Dubai Tennis Championships. He also made an entry in the Grand Slams at the Australian Open but lost in the first round against Denis Shapavalov.
Tsitsipas produced the best result of his career on clay by reaching the final of the Barcelona Open, where he lost to Rafael Nadal. Tsitsipas defeated three of the top 20 seeded players on his way to the final, and as a result of that run he entered the top 50 for the first time.
The Greek produced some of the best results on the tour in the hardcourt events before the US Open. He reached the semifinal at the Washington Open and the final of the Toronto Masters. Tsitsipas defeated four of the top 10 players in the world on the way to his first ATP 1000 Masters final in Canada.
He finished his breakthrough year by winning the NextGen ATP Finals in Milan, where he did not lose a single match.
Tsitsipas is certainly one of the top contenders to push the Big 4 off their perch, and is widely expected to enter the top 10 next season.