A few short months ago, four of the top five junior boys in the world were Americans. For a nation that has gone without a men’s Grand Slam singles champion since 2003, it’s been long overdue for rising talent to produce encouraging results.

It’s been an even longer drought to see a U.S. junior class this deep. As the 1980s became the ’90s, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, and Michael Chang rose through the ranks together and hit the pro tour at nearly the same time. In their teens, these future American legends were made better by their stiffest competition sleeping next door at the IMG Academy.

At least in this regard, history appears to be repeating itself.


American Revolution: Five young men carry the nation’s hopes after junior success

American Revolution: Five young men carry the nation’s hopes after junior success

Consider: In September, 18-year-old Californian Taylor Fritz won the U.S. Open junior title and ascended to No. 1 in the world. Right behind him in the rankings was 17-year-old Michael Mmoh, now ranked No. 10 but with three ITF Pro Circuit Futures titles to his name. Trailing Mmoh was No. 3 Tommy Paul—who fell to Fritz in the U.S. Open final.

Just a few months earlier, 18-year-old Reilly Opelka, a 6’10” tower from Missouri who reached a high of No. 5, served his way to the title at Wimbledon. And just prior to that, Paul beat Fritz for the junior Roland Garros title.

Got all that?

It’s competition, rather than tension, that is high among this group, especially with many of them based in Boca Raton at the USTA Training Center.

“We all practice together, so it’s good and competitive,” Paul, also 18, says. “There are a lot of us in Boca...We’re all pretty relaxed and laid back, so I don’t think we’ll ever have beef with each other or not like each other. We’re all close.”

Paul turned professional right after winning in Paris and is currently ranked No. 274 (Opelka, Fritz and Francie Tiafoe also turned pro this year). Fellow American Tiafoe is just 17 and already ranked No. 180. Tiafoe was the youngest Orange Bowl champion in history two years ago, and won his first Futures title this year. Fritz is ranked No. 207 after two ATP Challenger titles.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that junior success will translate to professional glory. A decade ago, Donald Young was the world’s top junior and fellow American Ryan Sweeting was right behind him at No. 3. Young has toiled in the pros, only sporadically making good on he potential he displayed as a junior. Sweeting fell of the map entirely; he’s most famous for marrying and now divorcing Kaley Cuoco.

“It's very promising on the men's side. We have a group of young men, 17, 18 and 19 years old, who have just finished coming through the juniors,” Gordon Smith, the USTA’s executive director and chief operating officer, says. “They're pushing each other. I think within the next year or two we're going to see a number of really exciting young American men break into the Top 100, and even much higher.”


American Revolution: Five young men carry the nation’s hopes after junior success

American Revolution: Five young men carry the nation’s hopes after junior success

What today’s teenagers also have is an advantage that Young, Andy Roddick, or Sampras could never have even dreamed of. The USTA National Campus will open its doors next year in Lake Nona, Fl., complete with 102 courts and a High Performance Center that includes eight hard courts, eight red clay courts, and six indoor courts, as well as fitness and housing facilities. American pros have long been criticized for their shortcomings on clay; this facility will acclimate prospects to the playing surface at a younger age.

The $60-million Campus is putting many of its marbles into developing the next great American champion—and it was recently announced that Ivan Lendl, Mardy Fish, and Jill Craybas will put their coaching hands into the pool (or lake) in Lake Nona.

“These young aspiring pros, they're on the road a lot,” Smith says. “But this will be the place they'll come back to rain, to get ready for pre-season, when they need to work on something, when they need therapy or to work with a nutritionist. This will be a world-class facility available to them to ensure that they become the best that they can be.”

There is hope in numbers, and America has at least five teenagers boasting huge junior success as they turn their full attention to the big leagues. Top-notch coaches and proper training resources help build on talent, and America certainly has that as well. Now the teens just need to turn it all into wins.

Follow Nina on Twitter at @NinaPantic1.