Between 2000-18, only four U18 players had managed to finish the season inside the top-80. Rafael Nadal did that twice in 2003 and 2004, delivering some impressive victories and standing around the 50th spot for two years despite injuries.
Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic joined him on the list in their final U18 season in 2005 and they were the last competitors to achieve this before 2017 when Denis Shapovalov entered the exclusive list following the semi-final at home Canada Masters, the fourth round at the US Open and two Challenger titles.
The season behind us managed to produce another future star, with an 18-year-old Jannik Sinner storming from outside the top-550 towards the place in the top-80 after an incredible run since February. Born in a village in the Dolomites, Jannik was a promising skier before choosing tennis as his primary sport, making a professional debut in 2018 and reaching one Futures final.
After a slow start of 2019 in Tunisia, a tall youngster who works with Riccardo Piatti and Andrea Volpini advanced into the semi-final of the Aktobe Futures before heading home to Bergamo where he claimed the first Challenger title on the fast indoor court, dropping only 14 games in the last three matches!
It was the first Challenger crown for 2001 generation and Jannik didn't stop there, claiming the trophy at Trento Futures just a week later to add more points to his tally. After a suitable rest, Sinner went to Santa Margherita Di Pula where he conquered another Futures, this time on clay, rattling off 16 straight wins before scoring the first ATP victory in Budapest as a qualifier at the end of April.
A week later, Jannik was the finalist of the strong Challenger in Ostrava, earning more spots in the rankings ahead of home Masters 1000 event in Rome where he delivered the first victory at that level for 2001 generation, ousting Steve Johnson in a tight third set.
Jannik qualified for the main draw in Lyon and s-Hertogenbosch, gathering more experience ahead of North American hard-court swing that saw him winning Lexington Challenger and qualifying for the main draw at the US Open, losing to Stan Wawrinka in four sets.
The semi-finalist in Mouilleron le Captif and Antwerp (his best ATP result so far), Sinner cracked the top-100 for the first time after one victory at rthe ATP 500 event in Vienna, heading to the Next Gen Masters at home in Milan where he dominated the field to claim the title despite being the youngest player in the draw.
A week later, Jannik wrapped up the season in Ortisei, delivering another high-quality performance on an indoor court to celebrate the third Challenger title of the season and close the year in the top-80, joining some big names and hoping for more of the same in 2020.