2019 Men’s Grand Slams: Can Anyone Challenge The Big Four?7 min read
There’s often value to be had at this time of year when it comes the new season’s Grand Slam tournaments – hopefully I’m about to find some.
It’s certainly been hard to find winners in recent years, largely due to the dominance of the Big Four. But while once again the four Slam titles were kept in those familiar hands in 2018, there were more signs than ever that the so-called NextGen is ready to challenge for the game’s biggest prizes.
What I’m looking for now are players with the potential to go off considerably shorter come the first ball – in the main each-way long shots – so here goes…
Australian Open – Lucas Pouille –
World No.32 Lucas Pouille has hired Amelie Mauresmo as his coach for 2019. pic.twitter.com/d2AfSprDMH
— Tennismash (@tennismash) December 6, 2018
This tournament is already only a few weeks away so it’s hard to see many prices fluctuating wildly, but Lucas Pouille may be worth a try. The Frenchman has just hired Amelie Mauresmo as his new coach and while she may not have earned huge plaudits for her work with Andy Murray, she’ll certainly be better for it.
Pouille made two Slam semis in 2016, went on to crack the top 20 and helped France to Davis Cup glory in 2017. However, it’s still fair to say he’s not really delivered fully on his undoubted talent. Maybe Mauresmo can help complete the jigsaw. The pair have already begun their preparations for the new season and if Pouille catches the eye at the Hopman Cup, three-figure quotes will likely disappear.
French Open – David Goffin –
I’d definitely rank Goffin in my top 10 when it comes to claycourt players and I feel he’s too big in this market, probably because he hasn’t had the best of luck with injuries over the past couple of years. His 2018 campaign ended in the autumn with an elbow issue but he’s been back in training and should be fit in firing in a couple of weeks. He’s got until April before he hits the clay and when he does he’ll likely challenge at the Masters events in Monte Carlo, Madrid and Rome.
The Belgian reached the semis of the former in 2017, beating both Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem; last season he made the last eight in Monte Carlo and Rome. He’s been to the quarter-finals at Roland Garros in the past (2016) and this was the venue where he made his breakthrough as a qualifier back in 2012. As ever, the problem for everyone at Roland Garros will be Rafael Nadal – if he’s fit and that’s not always a given with the Spaniard. Goffin would likely need a bit of luck with the draw but I can certainly see him going off shorter than 100s and if he gets the rub of the green (should that be the red?) then he’s capable of taking advantage.
Wimbledon – John Isner –
With the huge serve that he possesses, Isner had long been touted as a potential dark horse at Wimbledon but he finally delivered on his promise last season with his run to the semi-finals. There he was edged out by Kevin Anderson in the now-famous 26-24 final set but such a run can be considered something of a breakthrough at Grand Slam level for a player who went on to play in the season-ending ATP Finals. Having also won a maiden Masters title in 2018, Isner will come into the new season with renewed belief that he can contend at the biggest tournaments and I’m a little surprised to see him so far down the market. The American ace machine will head onto the grass with greater confidence than ever before come June and I see no reason why he can’t challenge again in SW19.
US Open – Alex de Minaur –
With this tournament still more than eight months away, it gives the greatest scope for value hunting at this time. Players will have many months to reorder the traders’ thinking and what we can say is that if there is to be a real move by that ‘Next Generation’, then surely their chances of Slam success will be at their highest in New York. Stefanos Tsitsipas and Karen Khachanov are two players I expect to continue their rise in 2018 but it’s another who falls into that bracket, Alex de Minaur, who I’m backing now.
The young Australian surged up the rankings in 2018, climbing from 208 at the start of the season to finish at 31. Not surprisingly, he was named ATP Newcomer of the Year. De Minaur is already one of the quickest players around the court with his forehand a weapon. Standing only 5ft 11in, he doesn’t have the serve of some of his contemporaries, although that didn’t stop Lleyton Hewitt – De Minaur’s Davis Cup captain and long-time mentor – becoming world number one and US Open champion. I see real potential for de Minaur to keep on improving and if he does he won’t be going off 100/1 come August.