Meet Two #NextGenATP Poised For US Open Breakthroughs
It happens every year. The cream rises to the top during the North American hard-court summer and future stars are introduced on one of tennis’ biggest stages: the US Open.
In 2017, Denis Shapovalov continued his ATP Rankings ascent at Flushing Meadows, storming through qualifying to reach the main draw. The Canadian found himself peaking at the perfect time after lifting his second ATP Challenger Tour trophy just weeks earlier. And one year later, Shapovalov has cemented himself in the Top 30 of the ATP Rankings, with the teen also up to third in the ATP Race To Milan.
This year, two budding #NextGenATP stars have been taking the circuit by storm in July and August and are poised to follow the same path. If you aren’t familiar with Lloyd Harris and Ugo Humbert, here’s your introduction to two of the hottest players on the planet.
The battle to qualify for the Next Gen ATP Finals will reach a critical phase in New York, with the entire Top 14 in the ATP Race To Milan competing in the main draw. Five of those budding stars emerged from this week’s qualifying competition, including Harris and Humbert, who will be making their Grand Slam debuts under the bright lights.
ATP Race To Milan Standings
To say that the 21-year-old South African and 20-year-old Frenchman have been dominating the competition in recent weeks is no hyperbole. Consider this: Harris and Humbert have combined for 26 wins from 31 matches on the ATP Challenger Tour since transitioning to hard in mid-July. That includes a total of five finals and maiden titles for both.
And like Shapovalov a year ago, their success has translated to the US Open, combining to drop just one set in storming through qualifying at Flushing Meadows.
Lloyd Harris lifts his first Challenger trophy in Lexington, Kentucky
“It’s massive,” Harris told ATPWorldTour.com. “In the juniors, I did the best here. I have good memories and I’ve enjoyed playing on the hard courts. So far, it’s a great experience. I’m very excited to compete in my first main draw.”
Like his countryman Kevin Anderson, at 6’5″ Harris is an imposing presence on the court with a rocket forehand, blistering serve and deceptive agility. It has been many years since his native South Africa had a youth movement to pin their hopes on, and now the Cape Town native is looking to become a household name.
Harris was a ruthless force at the Challenger stops in Lexington and Aptos earlier this month, reeling off a stunning 18 sets in a row en route to back-to-back finals. He would lift his first trophy at the $75,000 event in Lexington, vaulting to a career-high No. 145 in the ATP Rankings.
“I’ve been playing really good tennis this summer and I’m looking forward to continue that and build on it. This couldn’t have come at a better time. As soon as I stepped on the hard courts, I’ve been playing well. It bolsters your confidence for sure. You feel you can beat anybody and play well on any given day. It helps with all my shots. Maybe my body is a little more tired than I want it to be, but I’m still feeling strong and I’m playing as good as ever.”
Humbert, meanwhile, has been just as dominant. Having posted a 5-8 record in his Challenger career prior to July, his remarkable rise included three finals in three weeks, including his maiden title in Segovia, Spain. The 20-year-old crashed onto the scene with that sublime stretch, rising more than 100 spots in the ATP Rankings to a career-high No. 139.
“Those finals gave me a lot of confidence,” Humbert added. “I played well for three weeks in a row in Gatineau, Granby and then winning my first title in Segovia. Without that, I am not sure I could have done this in New York. Playing more matches and winning them helps my confidence a lot.”
Ugo Humbert celebrates his maiden Challenger title in Segovia, Spain
Next up: the Frenchman’s tour-level debut at the US Open. He defeated Pedja Krstin, Brandon Nakashima and fellow #NextGenATP Marc Polmans to qualify.
“It’s just beautiful, because it’s my first Grand Slam main draw. It feels incredible and I’d like to see how I do in best-of-five matches, because I’ve never played that before. It’s important for me. I’ve been trying to come to the net with my game and just be aggressive. Taking the ball early is important.”
Both kick off their Grand Slam careers on Monday, with Harris first on Court 12 against Gilles Simon and Humbert second on Court 8 against fellow qualifier Collin Altamirano. The spotlight beckons for two of the surging stars of summer.