In the tennis world these days, once you turn 25, you are no longer considered “young” except in rare circumstances. You become “seasoned” between 25 and 30, with “old” following quickly from age 30 to 35.
Breaking through to win a major at a young age has become increasingly difficult in the past decade for several reasons.
Recently, the juggernaut at the top of the men’s game has allowed only the three top-ranked players the opportunity to win championships on the biggest stages in tennis.
For example, the last player not ranked in the top three in men’s tennis to win the U.S. Open was Juan Martin del Potro. The Argentine won at Flushing Meadows back in 2009—turning back Roger Federer in a five-set final. It was a major shock. Del Potro was just twenty years of age.
Without a doubt, the days of teenage wunderkinds winning tennis majors have past.
No player since Rafael Nadal has won a Grand Slam title as a teenager. In 2005, at age 19, Nadal won the French Open for the first time. Prior to that, Pete Sampras won the 1990 U.S. Open for the first time, also at age 19.
While new players keep surfacing, hoping to break the iron grip of the top three on the Grand Slam titles, it has not happened recently beyond del Potro's win.
Following are the best bets for this season's crop of “young” players not yet ranked in the top ten—hoping to find the right ingredients for success at the 2012 U.S. Open, which starts soon at Flushing Meadows.