Top 10: They should have been world number 1

Mar 12, 2015, 7:54:28 PM

Top 10: They should have been world number 1
At 18, Borna Coric has already defeated Nadal and Murray, so inevitably the media already see the young Croat as a potential future world number one. But he will have to be careful...

At 18, Borna Coric has already defeated Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray, so inevitably all the media are raving about him and already see the young Croat as a potential future world number one. But he will have to be careful, others before him have received such predictions that never actually happened. Proof by ten.


Vince Spadea, the kid who defeated "THE" kid

1999 Australian Open, the American duel in the last 16 of the men's tournament between Andre Agassi and Vince Spadea, the almost unknown, turned to the advantage of the latter (who would then fall in the quarterfinals with honours against Tommy Haas). US media found a new darling to love but the romance didn’t last very long. Blame the emergence of Andy Roddick on one hand, and on the other the many underperformances of Spadea, who ended up getting a reputation of loser unable to see the end of a tournament (unless once in Scottsdale in 2004, only title in singles of his whole career). So when he retired, the New York Times eventually described him as the "archetype of tennis worker". Tough, but fair.


Mark Philippoussis, the « scud » can’t find his target

A tall and good looking man, a powerful serve and a promising debut with the pros: it didn't take long for tennis observers to fall in love with the Australian, saddled with the nickname "scud". But at the turn of millennium, while he was supposed to reach his full potential, Philippoussis's career slowly but surely started spiralling to the point of eventually retiring at only 30 years old in 2007, when he eventually got involved in Bachelor, a reality show on NBC. A little too close to the stars...


Daniel Elsner, the brat

German media were sure of it: the young Daniel, who was smashing everything on the junior tour, was the new Boris Becker. Big mistake: he may have had the tennis talent of "Boom-Boom" but surely not the mind-set. Debuting with the pros in 1997 with a bad reputation (girls, alcohol and drugs), he ended up making the front pages of the newspapers more for his antics than for his sports results: no title, not even a final when he had almost achieved a Grand Slam in junior! He disappeared from the ATP tour since 2008.


Mark Kratzmann, Happiness is in cricket

Strange life than that of Mark Kratzmann, precocity phenomenon, winner of four Grand Slam tournaments in junior (and a year 1984 during which he only missed the French Open to succeed a perfect season), but he was never able to reproduce his feats on the pro tour. The boy genius eventually came to terms with it, and did a decent career in doubles before moving to cricket in Hong Kong, after hanging the racquets. He was even elected in 2006 best player of the Hong Kong championship! Failing to have been world number with the little yellow ball...


Hicham Arazi, trick-less magician

«The courts magician»: This was the somewhat heavy nickname that the press gave Hicham Arazi, who was also carrying on his shoulders all the hopes of a Moroccan tennis lacking of stars to admire. Elegant lefty turned pro in 1993 at 20 years old, he remained fourteen years on the tour but more as an anonymous sidekick than a real crack. Only two strokes of brilliance to report: a trophy won at home in the Casablanca tournament in 1997 and three years later a prestigious victory at Indian Wells against Andre Agassi, who was world number one at the time.


Kristian Pless, the Danish dynamite

Denmark didn’t had many opportunities to shine on the ATP tour but thought it could count on the talent of Kristian Nielsen. In 1999, he succeeded to Roger Federer as junior world number one and turned pro in stride. If he slowly gathered momentum in the following years, his ascension was cut short by a big injury in 2004. If he painfully managed to come back to the top 100 for a while, Danish tennis had to get over it: its protégé would never really be a champion.


Richard Gasquet, Mozart forgot his lines

This is the most emblematic case and certainly the best known of this list. At 9 years old, the French made the front page of French Tennis Magazine, which predicted him a great future. At 15, the one who was then nicknamed "the little Mozart of tennis' became junior world champion and managed a sensational debut with the pros, becoming the youngest player to win a match in a Masters tournament, against Franco Squillari in Monte Carlo in 2002. But it was finally his rival in junior, Rafael Nadal, who will become one of the greatest champions of history when Gasquet had to settle for a fairly decent career but nothing more. What are the journalists Tennis Mag saying now?


Donald Young, forever young

The American press was desperately looking for its new tennis champion to succeed to Roddick and especially to Sampras and Agassi. It really thought to have found it in the person of Donald Young, crowned in 2005 youngest junior world champion at 16 years and 5 months. But precocity doesn't guarantee future success and since the good Donald has been struggling: no title in singles, two lost finals and a 38th place as best ATP ranking in 2012. At 25, it's still not too late to regain top level, but the clock is ticking...


Grigor Dimitrov, Baby Federer, really?

The Bulgarian player had the misfortune to receive from the media the hardest nickname ever: "Baby Federer". The reason? A slightly similar game, that is to say very classy. But it's not that easy to be Roger and that dear Grigor has been struggling to take on this embarrassing status of successor to the Swiss legend. Soon to be 24, he stabilized around the top 10 in recent months, but the place of world No.1 that many predicted him seems far, very far away.


Bernard Tomic, kill the father…

Australia has a tendency to get passionate for its young talent lately and it's certainly Bernard Tomic who suffered the most from this excessive media exposure. At 15, he is the best amongst the young generation and quietly announced to the media his ambitions: "To become world number 1 and win every Grand Slams." Rather than to calm him, his father encouraged him in this path of arrogance and the press enjoys the passionate relationship between son and father. Yet it has made him lose valuable time since joining the pro tour. His luck: his country should leave him a little more space since it has found a new young lead in... Nick Kyrgios.


By Régis Delanoë