French duo builds on their 2021 Roland Garros junior showdown, making significant strides in 2023.
Carlos Alcaraz and Holger Rune have spearheaded a teenage uprising on the ATP tour in recent years, with both players entering the Top 10 in ATP rankings history as teenagers, winning Masters 1000s, and Alcaraz capturing his first Grand Slam title at the US Open.
Following his victory at Flushing Meadows last summer, Alcaraz even became the youngest player to attain the No. 1 ranking in ATP history.
However, with both Rune and Alcaraz recently celebrating their 20th birthdays, the question arises: who will now lead the teenage charge in men’s tennis?
The answer lies in two French 18-year-olds who have been making significant strides on the ATP tour this year.
Luca Van Assche [FRA #86]
After claiming the 2021 Roland Garros junior title, Van Assche, who turns 19 next week, has smoothly transitioned into the professional circuit. In 2022, he secured his first Challenger title in Maia, Portugal, and in 2023, he added two more Challenger titles in Pau, France and Sanremo, Italy.
Interestingly, the Sanremo event was the last Challenger both Rune and Novak Djokovic participated in—and won—before committing full-time to the main tour.
Leaving the Sanremo champion comparisons aside, Van Assche’s victory at the event one month ago catapulted him from No. 108 to No. 91 in the ATP rankings, marking not only his Top 100 debut but also making him the first 2004-born player to enter the Top 100 in ATP rankings history.
In Banja Luka two weeks ago, Van Assche made further headlines by defeating three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka in the opening round and winning the first set against 22-time major champion Djokovic, before ultimately succumbing 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-2.
Since 2016, the only other players to win three or more Challengers before turning 19—Alcaraz, Rune, Felix Auger-Aliassime, and Jannik Sinner—have all reached the Top 10. Is Van Assche next in line?
Arthur Fils [FRA #124]
The 2021 Roland Garros junior runner-up to Van Assche, Fils clinched his first Challenger title this year in Oeiras, Portugal. In February, he made waves in Montpellier, defeating former Top 10 players Richard Gasquet and Roberto Bautista Agut in straight sets, becoming the first 2004-born player to reach an ATP quarterfinal.
The following day, he surpassed his own record, defeating Quentin Halys to become the first 2004-born player to reach an ATP semifinal.
In his subsequent tournament in Marseille, Fils reached his second ATP semifinal, dispatching another former Top 10 player, Wawrinka, in straight sets, before losing to fellow Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi.
Starting 2023 ranked No. 251, Fils’ Challenger successes and back-to-back ATP semifinals propelled him to a career-high No. 104 by the end of February. Currently ranked No. 124, and with fewer than 200 points to defend for the remainder of the year, Fils is set to join Van Assche in the Top 100 soon.
CURRENT TOP 10 TEENAGERS ON ATP RANKINGS:
- No. 86 Luca Van Assche (FRA) (age 18)
- No. 124 Arthur Fils (FRA) (age 18)
- No. 152 Luca Nardi (ITA) (age 19)
- No. 189 Shang Juncheng (CHN) (age 18)
- No. 212 Hamad Medjedovic (SRB) (age 19)
- No. 222 Shintaro Mochizuki (JPN) (age 19)
- No. 231 Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard (FRA) (age 19)
- No. 243 Abdullah Shelbayh (JOR) (age 19)
- No. 263 Alex Michelsen (USA) (age 18)
- No. 270 James McCabe (AUS) (age 19)
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