Here I take a look at the young guns who had a taste of competing on some of the most reputable tennis courts in the world for what could be the first of many times.
Earlier this week, I wrote a detailed preview ahead of Dominic Thiem's second round clash with Rafael Nadal on Philippe Chatrier. The young Austrian was dispatched in straight sets by the world number one, but there were times in the match, particularly at the start of the third set, where he led by a break of serve, that we saw why there was so much excitement surrounding the tie. Thiem is an offensive player who is capable of hitting big off his one-handed backhand as well as the forehand, and hit some very impressive winners past the eight-time Roland Garros champion, following on from an impressive straight sets win over Paul-Henri Mathieu in the first round.
Tactically, however, he was somewhat stubborn, standing quite a way behind the baseline when the only way to really give Rafa something to think about is to take a more aggressive court position and try to take the ball early. Still, Thiem will learn a lot from what will no doubt have been the biggest match in his career so far, and, having climbed around 350 places in the ATP Rankings over the past 18 months, it seems to be only a matter of time until he breaks into the top 50 for the first time. One of just two players under the age of 21 inside the top 100, this guy is certainly one to watch for the future.
21 year old Jack Sock from Nebraska, USA, has a forehand generating a comparable number of revolutions per minute to that of Rafael Nadal. Sock impressively beat Tommy Haas earlier this year in Auckland, and has steadily been establishing himself inside the top 100 in 2014. He was leading an injured Nicolas Almagro in the first round here before the Spaniard retired from that match, and went on to take a straight sets win over compatriot Steve Johnson in the second round before falling to Dusan Lajovic.
In the dark, post-Roddick era of American tennis, Sock is beginning to look like a potential glimmer of light and if he continues to make similar runs on a more consistent basis, he will have to begin dealing with the pressure of the media spotlight in the US as he makes a name for himself. I'll certainly be keeping my eye on him, and if he can develop that forehand to be anything like as effective as Rafa's, I'm sure I won't be the only one.
Diego Sebastian Schwartzman
Seeded 2nd in the qualifying draw, Diego Sebastian Schwartzman won four matches at Roland Garros this year before meeting Roger Federer in the second round. At 5'7", the diminutive 21 year old will join a host of fellow Argentine men in the top 100 of the ATP world rankings after a series of strong results on the Challenger circuit and his impressive run in Paris.
Schwartzman made a very good account of himself on Suzanne Lenglen against the 17 time Grand Slam champion, playing his part in three very competitive sets and exhibiting the ability to hit the ball effectively on the rise, in a somewhat similar fashion to Kei Nishikori. Obviously, his size is an obstacle in a sport like tennis, but I was thoroughly impressed with the way he went about the match, unperturbed by the reputation of his opponent, and I think that attitude will propel him into at least the top 50 in the coming years.
Jiri Vesely almost took a huge win over Andy Murray at Indian Wells earlier this year, but did manage to raise some eyebrows last week with an impressive run to his first main tour semi-final in Dusseldorf, defeating Sijsling, Davydenko and Melzer en route to a points haul that moved him back into the top 100 of the rankings. At 6'6", Vesely has a very dangerous serve and can also move surprisingly well for a man of his stature.
Seeded to face compatriot Lukas Rosol in the opening round in Paris, Vesely took an emphatic straight sets win which will have largely gone under the radar, before giving Milos Raonic some serious problems in the second round, serving for the first set before eventually going down in straights. There are still weaknesses in his game that he needs to work on, particularly between the ears, having failed to close out what could have been an essential opening set against the Canadian, but at 20 years old, Jiri Vesely has time on his side and will be another name on the lips of those looking to see where the next big names are coming from.
Which youngsters most impressed you in the first week of the French Open? Have your say below.
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