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

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

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by Jovica Ilic

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.

More stories are on the next page.. From one talent to another, as we are reaching Richard Gasquet, the 6th youngest player on this list. Richard showed his class and abilities from the earliest period of his development, and he had 2 Futures titles under his belt before turning 16! Before that, he received a wild card for Monte Carlo Masters, which was his debut on the big scene, and he grabbed the most from it, ousting Franco Squillari (Top 60 player) 7-6 3-6 7-5 for his first ATP win, just a day older than Agassi was when he claimed his! Marat Safin was too strong in the second round but nevertheless, this was a great result for the young Frenchman, who will have a very solid career that is still pretty much alive and productive.

Both Agassi and Gasquet were for sure very talented, but what can we say about Swedish star Bjorn Borg, who is along Nadal the greatest teenager in the Open era! Borg achieved some unique things in his young tennis career, and despite the fact he left the scene at the age of 26, he is still considered one of the greatest players in the Open era.

His first ATP win came in Madrid 1972 when he was 15 years and 10 months old, and he is the first player on this list who won another match after that first before losing to Jan Kodes in Round 16. Just 2 years later Bjorn won first out of 11 Grand Slam crowns in Paris, and he basically never looked back until 1982 when he became tired and wanted to take a break that he realistically never ended.

We are staying in Sweden, this time with Mats Wilander, who is the 8th youngest player on this list. Mats is another world number 1 and a seven-time Grand Slam winner, who fulfilled his potential and predictions of being a player to watch. His first out of 571 ATP wins arrived in 1980 at home in Bastad.

Mats beat his compatriot Jan Kallquist by 6-4 6-4, making a victorious pro debut, and from 1982 he was winning ATP titles on a regular basis, being one of the most recognizable players of the magnificent eighties. Rafael Nadal emerged on the scene by a storm, with physical strength and an iron determination that was not seen in tennis since who knows when! He needed just a few years on the Tour to battle his way through the rankings and be the only constant rival of Roger Federer before Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray stepped in a few years later.

So far, we were talking about the players from the 70's and the 80's when tennis was a completely different sport, physically far less demanding than it was at the beginning of the new millennium, but nothing could stop Nadal from joining this group, claiming his first ATP win at home in Mallorca in 2002, just a month before his 16th birthday.

This was his first pro tournament of the season, but he was more than capable of beating the name like Ramon Delgado before Oliver Rochus stopped him in the following round. 3 years later Nadal won Roland Garros at his debut there, and the rest is pretty much a history.

One thing is sure, we will not see a teenager good as Rafael Nadal any time soon, and there's a strong chance that his results before turning 20 will never be reached. After seeing 3 European stars, we are back into the United States for Ryan Harrison, who is the only player after Nadal who won the ATP match at the age of 15. The Americans were already struggling with big results, in the absence of names like Agassi and Sampras, and Ryan was seen as a future star that can bring the glory to the American tennis, something he never managed to do! In April 2008 he qualified for the ATV event in Houston, ranked well below 1200th place, and he took down Pablo Cuevas by 6-4 6-3 for his maiden ATP win, which was a big surprise back then.

James Blake made sure to end kid's dream in the second round, but this was an amazing result for Ryan, who continued to work hard in the following years. In 2011 he made back-to-back ATP semi-finals in Atlanta and Los Angeles, but Mardy Fish prevented him from reaching his first final, and after that Harrison lost the ground, never reaching Top 40 in his career.


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