Alexios Halebian, Mackenzie McDonald, Mitchell Krueger, Noah Rubin, and Spencer Papa
Ever since Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi hung up their tennis rackets, America has been waiting for her next whites-wearing, little-ball-hitting champion. (In men’s, at least. Women’s tennis is fine.) Andy Roddick hasn’t done the trick, and so far, neither have presumed successors John Isner, Mardy Fish, Ryan Harrison, Donald Young, or James Blake. (Although we haven’t given up on them yet.)
As such, here are the next crop of potential American stars who could make the good old U.S.A. just as relevant of a tennis term as the word “Djokovic.” Hopefully these guys are great and prove our very dire headline wrong. Also, obviously, our reasons why they’ll bog down into mediocrity are, uh, very hypothetical.
STILL ALIVE AT WIMBLEDON:
1. Mitchell Krueger
WHO HE IS: Mitchell Krueger is the great American hope. Krueger’s the highest-ranked U.S. junior, at #8, and he made it to the semifinals of the French Open — the best American showing — before losing to world #2 Kimmer Coppejans, a Belgian. Krueger, an 18-year-old native of Aledo, Texas, is headed to Texas A&M, one of the nation’s top programs, to play next year. And so far so good at Wimbledon — he beat 28th-ranked Brit Kyle Edmund in the first round and beat Croat Borna Coric in two sets in the second. He tweets here.
WHY HE’LL BOG DOWN INTO MEDIOCRITY: At Texas A&M, finds his true calling as an All-SEC defensive lineman.
2. Thai-Son Kwiatkowski
WHO HE IS: 17-year-old Thai-Son’s the 63rd ranked junior in the world, and he tweets, mostly about what you’d expect. (His bio? “traveling around the world hitting a little yellow ball.”) He lost in the first round of the French Open boys’ draw, but, along with Krueger, he’s made it to the third round of Wimbledon, so don’t be too surprised if that ranking rises a bit. (He beat the 26th and 49th-ranked players to get there.)
WHY HE’LL BOG DOWN INTO MEDIOCRITY: Gets too into Twitter and takes a job at BuzzFeed.
MADE IT TO SECOND ROUND:
3. Stefan Kozlov
WHO HE IS: There’s barely any information online about Stefan Kozlov, the world’s 67th-ranked junior. Probably has to do with the fact that he’s FOURTEEN YEARS OLD. And he won his first round at Wimbledon, beating the 19th-ranked German Daniel Masur, so he’s clearly one to keep a close eye on. He lost to Brit Liam Broady, world #5 and the guy fellow American Noah Rubin upset in the French, in the second round.
WHY HE’LL BOG DOWN INTO MEDIOCRITY: As soon as he turns 15, he begins to age backwards like Benjamin Button.
LOST IN FIRST ROUND:
4. Noah Rubin
WHO HE IS: Rubin, the 15th-ranked junior in the world, made it to the quarterfinals of the French Open last month with an upset of star British junior Liam Broady. A member of John McEnroe’s academy in New York, Rubin’s a native of Merrick, New York. He lost in the first round of Wimbledon, unable to repeat his French Open run.
WHY HE’LL BOG DOWN INTO MEDIOCRITY: Discovers Ann Coulter.
5. Alexios Halebian
WHO HE IS: Halebian, the 51st-ranked junior in the world, already lost in the first round of the Wimbledon boys’ draw, so that’s a bummer. (The guy who beat him is the world’s 40th-ranked player, Frenchman Mathias Bourgue.) He also lost in the first round of the French draw, but the 17-year-old’s a full-time student and player at the USTA’s Tennis Center in Boca Raton and has the U.S. Open to look forward to before going pro.
WHY HE’LL BOG DOWN INTO MEDIOCRITY: Quits tennis after reading Infinite Jest.
6. Connor Farren
WHO HE IS: Connor Farren, a 17-year-old out of Hillsborough, California, is the 54th-ranked junior in the world. He didn’t play in the French, and he lost to Mateo Nicolas Martinez in the first round of Wimbledon. (No shame there — Martinez is the 10th-ranked world junior.) It looks like Farren’s being recruited by Stanford and USC but hasn’t committed yet.
WHY HE’LL BOG DOWN INTO MEDIOCRITY: After enrolling at Stanford, he sinks into the deep, dark world of tech startups. Undertrained and subsisting only on Monster energy drinks, he’s found during his senior year curled up on a couch in the student center, two iPads in front of him, negotiating a billion-dollar sale with “Mark Zuckerberg,” a tennis ball with eyes drawn on it.
7. Mackenzie McDonald
WHO HE IS: McDonald is the world’s 16th-ranked player, only one spot behind Rubin and America’s 3rd-best. He went out in the first round of both the French and Wimbledon, but the 17-year-old, out of Piedmont, California, isn’t that far removed from a diagnosis of a bleeding disease that kept him out of competition for eight months.
WHY HE’LL BOG DOWN INTO MEDIOCRITY: Spends too much of his free time acting in Judd Apatow ensemble films.
8. Spencer Papa
WHO HE IS: Although he’s out of Wimbledon in the first round, Papa made it to the third round of the French before falling to 14th-ranked Czech player Adam Pavlaseck. Papa, a 16-year-old out of Edmond, Oklahoma, was selected for the Boca Raton USTA Academy, and he tweets, largely about the Oklahoma City Thunder.
WHY HE’LL BOG DOWN INTO MEDIOCRITY: Papa John Schnatter.