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Who are the youngest players with ATP win in the Open era?

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by Jovica Ilic

Tennis - 10 players managed to accomplish this before turning 16, and we saw only 3 of those in the last 15 years

The day when you score your first ATP victory is a special one for every young player and this article is about the chosen group of athletes that achieved that before turning 16 (in the Open era, of course). We had 10 cases where a 15-year-old managed to win an ATP match before turning 16, and they occurred between 1972-2008. It has to say that there's alway a chance that the list is not complete, because of the messy ATP archive, but it is how it is, and we are going to look those players more closely in order to highlight this interesting achievement. 5 players come from the United States (they took all the places from 2nd to 5th youngest), and golden 80's produced 6 very young winners of the ATP match, which was quite expected. We will see some big names on the list, including multiple Grand Slam champions, but also some others that never developed their careers as they would like, as this accomplishment was not always an omen of great things to come. Here is the table with 10 youngest players who claimed ATP win, and the tournament where they get it.

 

We start with Franco Davin, who is the youngest player in the Open era with ATP victory. Namely, he made a professional debut in Buenos Aires, in February 1985, just after turning 15, and he came from behind to topple Chilean Hans Gildemeister, ranked 64th in the world at that moment, by 4-6 6-3 6-4. There's a great chance that no one will ever come close to beat this record, but Davin failed to make a big career after that, reaching the 30th position on the ATP list in 1990 and winning just 3 ATP titles. He retired in 1997, a few weeks after turning 27, and he is best known for his coaching job, working with Juan Martin del Potro (also with Gaston Gaudio and Grigor Dimitrov). 

Out of all great American players in the last 40 years, Tommy Ho is the youngest player from that country with an ATP win, scoring it at Rye Brook in August 1988 when he was 15 years 2 months and 5 days old. This was only his second ATP tournament in a career and he beat fellow American Matt Anger 6-4 3-6 6-4 before losing to Ramesh Krishnan. The week after, Tommy became the youngest player in the Grand Slam main draw in the Open era, but he failed to make at least decent career, reaching the 80th place in the rankings and notching only 36 ATP wins in total!

A year earlier, super talented Michael Chang made his first professional steps in 1987, and he got a chance to score his first ATP triumph at the big stage of the US Open, where he took down Paul McNamee in 4 sets to become the youngest winner of a Grand Slam match, being 15 years 6 months and 9 days old! A few weeks later he was already in his first ATP semi-final, and 7 days later he won his first Challenger title, as the youngest winner of a tournament at that level. Unlike Davin and Ho, Michael achieved some amazing tennis results, winning 34 ATP crowns in total, including Roland Garros 1989 (youngest Grand Slam champion ever) and climbing all the way up to 2nd place in the ATP rankings.

Jimmy Arias was another promising American who had a great start of a career but could have accomplished much more. The organizers of the Palm Harbor tournament gave him a wild card in 1980, and that was all he needed to win an ATP match at 15 years and 7 months, defeating Warren Maher in straight sets. Two years later he was already a multiple ATP champion and ranked 5th in the world still as a teenager, but he stayed on 5 ATP titles, never repeating the form and impulsion he had as a very young player.

Andre Agassi is one of the best Open era players, with career Grand Slam and 8 Major titles in total. Andre's journey started in 1986 in La Quinta, where he defeated John Austin 6-4 6-2 (he was 15 years and 9 months old) before losing to Mats Wilander in the second round. Agassi is for sure one of the most talented players we saw in the last couple of decades, with second to none groundstrokes, anticipation, and quickness, but he had some very dark periods in his career, that stopped him from achieving even more. 

 

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