Earlier this month, the USTA announced the wild cards for the 2020 U.S. Open, headlined by three-time grand slam champion Andy Murray. However, the players that tennis fans should really be looking out for are the young American wildcards that have been given an opportunity to showcase their true abilities at this year's tournament.
Of the seven Americans that have been awarded wild cards, 21-year-old JJ Wolf has the biggest expectations to make a solid run at the U.S. Open. Ranked 144th in the FedEx ATP Rankings, the Cincinnati native started the year with a 15-3 record, which included two ATP Challenger Tour titles in Columbus and Noumea (New Caledonia), before the suspension of the ATP Tour in March. When watching Wolf play, many may first notice his powerful forehand or his dynamic serve, however, what makes Wolf stand out from the field is his stunning athleticism.
Having played baseball, basketball, soccer, and tennis until the age of 16, Wolf often credits these sports in helping develop the explosiveness and quickness that he displays on court. In an interview with Tennis.com, Wolf stated that basketball was good for his “lateral quickness and jumping ability”, and baseball helped him maintain a “live arm and strong hip rotation”, which helped him develop his heavily effective serve. That athleticism, paired with his lively strokes and solid mental strength, makes Wolf an exciting player to watch and support.
Another promising young star that will compete at the 2020 U.S. Open is Brandon Nakashima. The 19-year-old has had an impressive start to the 2020 season, making the quarterfinals of the ATP 250 event in Delray Beach and reaching the semifinals in Indian Wells. Since officially turning pro in late 2019, Nakashima has managed to move up over 700 spots in the rankings and currently sits at 220th. Although he does not have any outstanding shots nor incredible athleticism, Nakashima is credited for his balance and stability, as well as his steady strokes which rarely break down during matches.
A name that you won't hear as commonly as Wolf or Nakashima is Michael Mmoh, a 22-year-old American that has been quietly rising up the rankings. Mmoh reached the second round of the 2020 Australian Open, where he lost to 12th ranked Roberto Bautista-Agut in a hard fought, four-set match, where Mmoh showcased his potential to succeed at high level tournaments. Having won two ATP Challenger Tour titles in the past, Mmoh is the type of player that can sneakily be the wildcard that makes it furthest in the draw.
With many top players withdrawing from the 2020 US Open, there has been a gap of opportunity created for lower-ranked players to make their mark on the tennis world. Having the weapons and finally being granted the chance to perform on a big stage, don’t be surprised if Wolf, Nakashima, or Mmoh make a deep run at the 2020 U.S. Open.
Stanly Shukhman is a junior at Livingston High School in New Jersey and high-level junior tennis player with a passion for writing. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org