Who will be the 2020 Aussie Open breakout star?
EVERY Australian Open there's always one.
A young player who exceeds expectations, knocks off a big gun or has a deep run in the Open, capturing the imagination of the tennis world.
Last year it was 20-year-old Greek sensation Stefanos Tstsipas, who made it all the way to the semi-finals before falling to Spanish great Rafael Nadal.
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Who will it be in 2020?
Here are five candidates.
Matteo Berrettini (23) Italy
Ironically dumped from the first round by last year's breakout star Tstsipas, Berrettini is the best player you haven't heard of. Ranked No.8 in the world, the 23-year-old's ranking has soared after making the fourth round at Wimbledon and then the semi-final at the US Open. If he continues that progression, he makes the final at the Aus Open and that potentially means a 'Big 3' scalp along the way. Berrettini plays an in-your-face aggressive style of tennis with a lightning serve and monster forehand that helps him fire opponents off the court. He has a link to Australia - he is dating Aussie tennis player Alja Tomljanovic. Could he be the young gun Melbourne Park adopts in 2020?
Jannik Sinner (18) Italy
Baby-faced Italian Jannik Sinner burst onto the tennis scene in 2019 as the ATP's Newcomer of the Year. Possessing incredible composure that belies his tender age, Sinner is a smooth mover on the court, his slight build still able to produce rocket serves over 200km/h. Will he be a Saint or a Sinner in Melbourne? Aussie fans might not be so pleased with the 18-year-old - he knocked over Alex de Minaur in straight sets in the ATP NextGen Final in Milan in November. He starts 2020 ranked No.78 in the world. One would be foolish to bet against that ranking being closer to the top 20 by year's end.
Aryna Sabalenka (21) Belarus
Australia got its first taste of the grunting, screeching and shrieking Aryna Sabalenka at the 2018 Open when she gave Ash Barty a scare in the first round. Returning last year as the No.11 seed, Sabalenka was upset in the third round by teenager Amanda Anisimova - another breakout candidate. She comes into 2020, again, ranked No.11, as one of the favourites to win the tournament, but, having never made it past the fourth round of a Slam, have we gone too early? Sabalenka is a handful on the court, using her power to bash winners with ease, but is also prone to unforced errors. The young gun is well aware of the negative reception last year but says "I think I'm a little bit quieter now". That will no doubt endear her to Aussie fans.
Felix Auger-Aliassime (19) Canada
The golden child of men's tennis, Felix Auger-Aliassime has been touted as the man to carry the torch from the Big 3. Picking up a tennis racquet at the age of 4, Auger-Aliassime was earmarked, in 2015, the next big thing in tennis after he became the youngest player in history to qualify for an ATP Challenger main draw just 14, subsequently becoming the first player born in the 2000s to hold an ATP ranking. Make no mistake, this kid is the real deal. Made the third round of Wimbledon last year to register his first win in a grand slam but was hampered by an ankle injury in the latter part of 2019. Ordained by Novak Djokovic as "the one that I like the most from the young generation", Auger-Aliassime has the all-court game to achieve a stunning rise in 2020.
Cori 'Coco' Gauff (15) USA
Australia gets its first look at the 15-year-old US prodigy as a fully-fledged member of the tour and she is sure to draw huge crowds. Humble, talented and confident, Gauff is already an idol to hordes of girls, some older than she. The youngest player in the open era to do just about anything, Gauff shot to prominence when she defeated her idol Venus Williams at Wimbledon and made it to the fourth round. Fit and powerful, Gauff hammers her serve and possesses a devastating two-handed backhand and uses her superior speed to chase down balls many would surrender. Ordained as being "on a different level" by none other than Serena Williams, Gauff is one of the big drawcards at the Open in 2020. Can success match the hype?