The 20 best youngsters of the decade

Dec 23, 2021, 6:00:00 AM | by Florian Cadu

Daniil Medvedev
Over the past ten years, We Are Tennis by BNP Paribas has grown up, and so have many of the youngsters who have made a name through their trophies and punchlines. Here are the 20 players who have had the best career since 2010.

Felix Auger-Aliassime

In 2010, Felix Auger-Aliassime was 10. In 2015, he became the youngest player of all time to feature in the Top 800. In 2019, he became the first millennial to feature among the world’s best 100. In 2020, he launched his humanitarian programme #FAAPointsForChange (sponsored by BNP Paribas), the purpose of which is to give $5 to CARE (an NGO which fights for the education and protection of children in Togo) for every point won. In 2021, he already totalled eight ATP finals. Hopefully, he will win the next finals and start writing his own legend. It should not take too long…


Naomi Osaka

Where will she stop? Since 2012, when she started as a professional tennis player, Naomi Osaka has kept improving. And since 2018, she has earnt a lot of trophies, winning more Grand Slam tournaments (four) than “classic” tournaments (three)! She even carried the Olympic flame for the Tokyo Olympics, on 23rd July 2021, in her home country. And she still has so much to achieve….


Nick Kyrgios

Indefinable, timeless, guilty, unstoppable, erratic, but also magic, ecliptic, eclectic, electric, magnificent, enchanting, angry, moody. Through his roars and his shots, his tweets and his tweeners, his underhand serves or his violent words, his feats and his deviations, Nick Kyrgios has become a major figure of modern tennis, which needs more players like him, the talent and behaviour of whom have been impossible to track for the past ten years.


Bianca Andreescu

On 8th September 2019, in Flushing Meadows, Bianca Andreescu unexpectedly won the US Open – first time for a Canadian player – on her first participation – first time ever in the Open era. It was the conclusion of an absolutely amazing season, and she had just turned 18! With four titles and eight convincing wins against Top 10 players, gifted Andreescu has laid the foundations for a promising future.


Jannik Sinner

He must have been jealous of Auger-Aliassime. In November 2020, 19-year-old Jannik Sinner started the fight of precocity when he won the Sofia Open, becoming the youngest Italian player to win a trophy in the Open era, and the first millennial to win an ATP title. Nothing – not even coronavirus – can seem to stop his linear evolution.


Iga Swiatek

Poland had been waiting for it for a long time… But no one would have ever imagined such a sudden and carefree feat. Still, in the 2020 French Open, 19-year-old Iga Swiatek seemed to have as much fun on the court as in a nightclub. She became the first Polish player to win the competition, and she did not even lose a set – only 23 games lost, and an average match time of 1 hour and 10 minutes. It was her first major achievement, but definitely not the last one.


Ugo Humbert

Ugo Humbert is 6 ft 2, can easily transition to the net, and is as ambitious as his game. Needless to say, Ugo Humbert, who has won three tournaments – Auckland, Antwerp and Halle – since 2020, is more likely to keep his promises than most politicians. The crazy part is that he almost did not make it as a professional player, as he had to stop playing for a year and a half because of his many injuries when he was younger… Let’s (U)go!


Barbora Krejcikova

Are there still players out there who are as comfortable in doubles as in simples? Yes, there is Barbora Krejcikova, who has won eleven titles (including three Grand Slam tournaments and the 2021 Olympic Games) and ranked world No 1 in doubles, as well as three titles (all of them in 2021, including the French Open) and ranked WTA No 3 in simples. In the end, there is no debate; it is not a matter of statistics or philosophy, she is just a war machine.


Denis Shapovalov

With his blond hair held by a cap or a band, his left hand, his wonderful one-handed backhand topspin and his charisma on the court, Denis Shapovalov is a love-him-or-hate-him kind of guy. Sometimes, he fails to deliver; sometimes, his performances match his elegance. But he seems to have become more consistent recently and should soon be able to experience what he experienced in Wimbledon again – a wonderful tournament which only ended in the semis against Novak Djokovic. For his pleasure, and ours!


Sofia Kenin

It seems impossible to win the Australian Open without first reaching a Grand Slam round of 8, the evidence being Sofia Kenin. An average player from 2015 to 2018 – she missed all Grand Slam second weeks out of her seven tournaments – she made a name for herself in 2019 when she won five trophies and reached the French Open final. Was it the time she needed to get stronger mentally? “I sometimes cry before a match,” said the Moscow-born American player. If that’s the key to success, well, fair enough.


Frances Tiafoe

He has always been considered the future of American tennis and has always managed to live up to these immense expectations. Frances Tiafoe has somehow improved enough to be seen as a major player of modern tennis. The son of Sierra Leonean immigrants, Tiafoe has achieved a couple of great feats – seven matches won against Top 10 players since 2017 – and has performed well in tournaments, though he has not won many – only one, in 2018, and two lost finals. Plus, he is quite famous for his sportsmanship… and his hugs to ball boys. 


Ashleigh Barty

Did you know that the last Australian player to be ranked as high as WTA No 1 was Evonne Goolagong? Well, it was before Ashleigh Barty, in 2019. Over the past ten years, the 5-ft-5 player, who has won two Grand Slam tournaments (the 2019 French Open and Wimbledon 2021), has imposed her style and aces, and is now a safe bet on the WTA circuit. Fortunately, she did not choose to make a career in cricket, her second favourite sport, which she played at high level for a long time.


Andrey Rublev

Legend has it that he had an epiphany in a sauna, while talking to Marat Safin. It is said that Safin turned the heat up by advising him on how to deal with pressure. A few months later, Rubley won the award of the best progression in 2020. The times when he freaked out “before every match” – as in Dubai in January 2020 – are over. He lifted five trophies in 2020. Yes, the Moscow-born has grown up.


Simona Halep

Is there anyone who does not know the great Simona Halep in 2021? Should we remind you of her achievements? She has won more than twenty titles and played roughly twenty finals. Yet, ten years ago, only few people knew what a great defender she was after only two seasons as a professional. It was just a matter of time considering how obvious it was that she would become who she is now. In the end, her breast reduction – her breast was the cause of back pains and troubles on serve – was worth it.


Daniil Medvedev

He played an incredible six finals in a row in 2019; he won no fewer than twenty consecutive matches including twelve against Top 10 players in 2020; he won his first Grand Slam tournament in 2021. No wonder why politicians, like Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi, praise Djokovic’s new nightmare. The past is his weapon, now the present and the future are his own.


Garbine Muguruza

I think these are the best times of my career; as a player, I feel more complete than ever. Perhaps not tennis-wise, but in terms of mental strength, I am. I think it is a great time.” That’s what Garbine Muguruza said in 2021, after she won nine titles in eight years. It was maturity speaking, definitely. The only thing she might never be able to get straight is how people pronounce her name. Half of them still get it wrong.


Alexander Zverev

It was a medal, but not any medal. It was the actual gold medal, the one that crowned both the athlete and his country. After he won a few Masters 1000 tournaments, Alexander Zverev could not have dreamt better than winning the Olympic gold in Tokyo. Nothing would be the same anymore. It was said, it has been done, with four tournaments won in 2021. Grand Slam tournaments, beware! The German player you have so often welcome will be back, and he won’t just come for glory next time.


Sloane Stephens

That was some comeback! After she fell down the abyss of the WTA ranking due to a left foot injury, 934-ranked Sloane Stephens came back in 2017… and won the US Open a few weeks later. It was her first Grand Slam title, and she couldn’t believe it herself. She showed great things before that… and after that, too? Wait and see!


Stefanos Tsitsipas

His cheeks were red due to his efforts and humidity. He looked completely downcast. Stefanos Tsitsipas had just lost to Stan Wawrinka in the 2019 French Open semi-final despite his slight domination and seemed at the end of his tether. “I have never been through anything like that, I hadn’t cried after a match for a long time,” he said. “I was so close, so close… I had so many break points. My mind is so empty, I can’t even think…” Still, he can be happy, because tennis fans were thrilled by this match, as it has often been the case since 2015. Long may it last!


Dominic Thiem

For a long time, tennis specialists wondered who would ever disturb the unstoppable Big Four (Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, and Djokovic). Who would stop their Grand Slam supremacy, which lasted for almost four years? Fate chose Dominic Thiem, and it was no coincidence. Thiem had been impressive since 2015 and he just had what it took in 2020. The question is now different: apart from a little depression, what does he have in stock for the next decade?