The European clay court swing officially began last week with the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters. The third Masters 1000 tournament of 2016 and first of the three on clay this spring saw eight of the current 16 ATP Young Guns in action.
Jiri Vesely, then ranked No. 55, provided the biggest upset of the tournament. He did the seemingly impossible, defeating world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in three sets. Unfortunately, the 22-year-old failed to carry any momentum into his next match against eventual runner-up, Gael Monfils. The Czech fell to a wily Monfils in straight sets, 6-1, 6-2.
Wildcard Lucas Pouille, 12th-seeded Dominic Thiem and qualifier Damir Dzumhur also had solid performances.
Pouille, the 22-year-old Frenchman, toppled two French players — Nicolas Mahut and ninth-seeded Richard Gasquet — before running into eventual semifinalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. His win over Gasquet was another upset in the tournament, considering that veteran Frenchman has been on an upward trajectory in the past year, climbing all the way from No. 26 in January 2015 to inside the Top 10. Unfortunately, Tsonga, who would go on to shock Roger Federer with a three-set defeat, proved too much for the Young Gun, taking the match in straight sets 6-4, 6-4.
Thiem, who has been the most impressive Young Gun player in 2016 with three titles in as many finals, battled through two consecutive three-set matches before falling to eventual champion Rafael Nadal 7-5, 6-3. The 22-year-old Austrian, who sits on the cusp of the Top 10 at No. 15 in the rankings, defeated fellow Young Gun Taro Daniel en route to the quarterfinals.
Qualifier Damir Dzumhur threw another wrench into the draw by defeating Tomas Berdych. Perhaps Berdych’s mind was in other places after being wrongfully accused of being listed in the controversial Panama Papers, but he lacked focus as he was defeated 6-4, 6-7 (1), 6-3 by the 23-year-old Bosnian. Dzumhur almost followed up his massive upset over the sixth seed with win against 10th-seeded Milos Raonic, but the big-serving giant proved to be too tough, taking the match in three sets 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (5).
In Barcelona, Alexander Zverev and Hyeon Chung were in action.
Zverev, the 18-year-old sensation from Germany, toppled fellow countryman Jan-Lennard Struff in straight sets 6-3, 6-4. Next, the No. 51, who nearly edged Nadal in three sets at the Miami Open, will face Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci in the second round.
Fellow teenager Chung was not as lucky as Zverev, as the No. 71 Korean fell to No. 76 Malek Jaziri of Tunisia 3-6, 4-6.
Fans in Bucharest will have the pleasure of seeing seven Young Guns in action.
Wildcard Bernard Tomic sits atop the tournament seeding and looks to play the winner of Andrea Arnaboldi and Robin Hasse in his opening round. The 23-year-old currently sits at No. 21 in the rankings and looks to continue his solid 2016 season (14-8 record) at his first clay court tournament of the year.
No. 92 Kyle Edmund, No. 82 Dzumhur and Daniel won their opening round matches.
Edmund defeated Lukas Rosol in two tiebreak sets. The Brit will face the fourth seed, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in his second round. Dzumhur followed up a stellar run at Monte Carlo with a three-set win over Marius Copil. He will face the winner of fifth-seeded Marco Baghdatis and fellow Young Gun Marco Cecchinato in the second round. Daniel closed out the trio of Young Gun first-round winners by toppling qualifier Michael Linzer in two uncontested straight sets 6-2, 6-0. Daniel will face the winner of Young Gun Lucas Pouille and Dusan Lajovic in his second round.
Argentine Diego Schwartzman is the seventh Young Gun to take the court. The 23-year-old who is currently ranked No. 90 will have a tough opening round match, as he faces seventh-seeded Paolo Lorenzi in his first round.
Which Young Gun do you think will have the deepest run in either Barcelona or Bucharest this week?