Nadal, Zverev, Shapovalov and the youngest player with Masters 1000 victory

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Nadal, Zverev, Shapovalov and the youngest player with Masters 1000 victory

Establish in 1990, Masters 1000 series has been the pinnacle of the ATP calendar ever since, standing as the strongest ATP tournaments outside Grand Slams and usually gathering the world's leading players. Some of the greatest players have lifted the Masters 1000 trophies in the past 28 years but in this article we will switch our focus to the most prominent youngsters who made their first steps in the Masters 1000 events, examining 12 of those who managed to win a main draw match before turning 18. Super talented Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime did that last week at Indian Wells and we will discover where he stands on the list and who are the players who did that before him.

Of course, this doesn't necessarily stand as a herald for a potentially great career, as we have some less known competitors included but it is certainly a nice feeling when you win a match on the big scene at such a young age.

The list of the youngest players who grabbed Masters 1000 win:


The first 17-year-old player who won Masters 1000 match was Fabrice Santoro in Miami 1990, qualifying for the main draw and beating Marc Rosset 6-4 6-1 before losing to the 2nd seed Boris Becker in the second round in three sets. A few weeks earlier Fabrice have won his maiden Challenger title in Telford and he was already ranked inside the Top 150 when he headed to Miami to compete in his seventh ATP tournament in a career. Later that year in Cincinnati, another 17-year-old qualifier made a winning debut in the main draw to join our list. It was the South Africa Marcos Ondruska who ousted the 16th seed Petr Korda 6-3 5-7 6-4 in the opening round before falling to Andrew Sznajder in three sets, missing a chance to make an even better result. This was only the second ATP tournament for Ondruska (he was ranked 426th) after Washington a few weeks earlier where he also lost to Sznajder in the second round. 

American David Witt never entered the Top 100 but he used his opportunity in Miami 1991 with both hands, defeating Cassio Motta 6-1 7-6 for his first ATP win and forcing the third set against the 15th seed Michael Stich before the German prevailed 6-2 1-6 6-2 to end his run. Interestingly, this would be his only Masters 1000 win since he never played another tournament at this level! Just a few weeks later we had another youngster who made a name for himself on the big stage, the Romanian qualifier Dinu Pescariu. This was only the second ATP tournament for the Bucharest native ranked 320th and he reached the second round when Franco Davin was forced to retire at the start of the second set. Jonas Svensson halted him in the second round in three close sets but we never saw much from Dinu in the future, winning less than 30 ATP matches and reaching no finals on the Tour. 

We had to wait for another nine years to see another player winning the Masters 1000 match before turning 18 and this time it was the future world number 1 Andy Roddick who achieved that in Miami 2000. This was only the second ATP tournament for the youngster from Omaha who was barely ranked inside the Top 1000 at that moment but he played it like a full-time pro, toppling world number 41 Fernando Vicente 6-4 6-0 in 58 minutes for his maiden ATP win. Andy lost just 10 points on serve and he broke the Spaniard four times to seal the deal in style and set the second round clash with Andre Agassi. Andre needed just over an hour to dismiss Roddick, saving all six break points and stealing Andy's serve four times. 

Another huge talent took the first big ATP step in Monte Carlo 2002 and he wrote Masters 1000 history as the youngest player who notched the win at this level. It was the 15-year-old qualifier Richard Gasquet who ousted Franco Squillari 7-6 3-6 7-5 in 2 hours and 24 minutes for the best possible ATP debut. Marat Safin didn't have too many troubles against the Frenchman in the second round but Richard achieved something that will be very hard to repeat in the future since it is not an easy task to win the Futures match at such a young age, not to mention the Masters 1000 level.

A year later there was another extremely young player who stole the show in Monte Carlo, a 16-year-old qualifier Rafael Nadal who was already ranked just outside the Top 100! Nadal made the best possible Masters 1000 debut on his beloved clay, destroying Karol Kucera 6-2 6-1 before he stunned world number 7 Albert Costa 7-5 6-3 to become the first player on our list who won the second round match as well. Guillermo Coria proved to be too strong in the third round but it was clear that the new tennis star was born and Nadal will prove that just two years later when he conquered his first Masters 1000 title here in Monte Carlo, beating Coria in the title match. 

Gasquet and Nadal are the only players who won Masters 1000 match before turning 17 and we had to wait for another seven years to trace the next player for our story, Ryan Harrison at Indian Wells 2010. Harrison was ranked 284th at that moment and the wild card proved to be well spent on him, beating Taylor Dent 6-3 6-4 in 71 minutes, facing just one break point and taking rival's serve once in each set for the place in the second round. An eventual champion Ivan Ljubicic took him down 6-2 7-6 but Ryan proved his quality and talent, standing as one of the most promising players born between 1990-1992. 

Alexander Zverev was the leader of the pack for the upcoming stars ever since he stepped on the Tour and he got a chance to prove that as a qualifier in Miami 2015, a month before turning 18. Sascha was already very experienced and he played on the ATP level while his coevals were still fighting for the junior trophies and he came to Miami ranked 129th. The German beat Sam Groth in three close sets before losing to Lukas Rosol in the second round. His junior partner Andrey Rublev received a wild card and he also claimed the first round triumph, ousting Pablo Carreno Busta to earn his place in our story. 

Denis Shapovalov made his Masters 1000 debut at home in Toronto in 2016 and it was a very successful one, overpowering a Top 20 star Nick Kyrgios 7-6 3-6 6-3 to set the second round clash with Grigor Dimitrov. The Bulgarian proved to be too strong for the 17-year-old ranked 370th, needing an hour and 14 minutes to score a 6-4 6-3 triumph but this was a great experience for Shapovalov who would bounce even stronger in 2017, advancing to the semi-final of Canada Masters as the youngest player who did that at Masters 1000 level. 

Another super talented Canadian made a name for himself last week at Indian Wells, as the newest player with a Masters 1000 win before turning 18. Felix Auger-Aliassime has been the leader of 2000 generation and he became famous when he qualified for the Challenger main draw at the age of 14, reaching the quarter-final at the same level a few months later! Last year, Felix joined Nadal and Gasquet as one of the youngest players in the Top 200 in the past 20 years and he received a main draw wild card in Rotterdam and Marseille to gather some ATP experience before heading to Indian Wells where he qualified for the main draw to become the first player of his generation with Masters 1000 match.

Auger-Aliassime defeated another Canadian qualifier Vasek Pospisil 6-2 7-6 to claim his first ATP win in such a strong tournament before losing to compatriot Milos Raonic in the second round. It will be interesting to follow the further development of the upcoming young stars and to see who will be the next to join this list and continue a solid trend set by Zverev, Rublev, Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime in the last three years. 

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