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Marc-Andrea Huesler, Max Purcell and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina showing that ‘Succession’ is more than just a show
With some biggest stars in the men’s game off the tour, their countrymen are making names for themselves.
Published May 11, 2023
HIGHLIGHTS: Davidovich Fokina outlasts Rune in late-night thriller
For the better part of the past two decades, we’ve been able to witness history-making feats seemingly on the regular by some of the greatest men’s players to ever pick up a racquet.
But in tennis, as in life, nothing lasts forever.
Retirements and injuries have had a serious impact, forcing some of the biggest names to the sidelines for extended absences, if not permanent retirement. In the wake, however, there is opportunity for others to shine—including those who have competed in the shadows of their compatriots.
Here’s a look at several players who are making moves of their, own and demonstrating that pipelines run deep at home.
Switzerland: Marc-Andrea Huesler
With Roger Federer retiring last year and Stan Wawrinka battling to hold on, it’s now Huesler’s turn to lead the charge for Switzerland. The 26-year-old, who won his first singles title last year in Sofia, understands and appreciates the impact the two future Hall of Famers have had both at home and on a global level.
“It’s a privilege to have players like that and be from the same country, and have the opportunity to practice with them in the past,” Huesler told TENNIS.com at the Miami Open, where he was the only Swiss in the men’s draw.
“On the other hand, obviously, expectations are very high in Switzerland,” he added. “You have to be performing very well that people actually end up liking you. People who know about tennis know that it’s not a stroll through the park.”
Huesler, who turned pro at the relatively late age of 19, is focused on going about his career at his own pace, noting that “everyone has their own path.”
“What they have achieved, especially Roger, is exceptional, everyone knows that,” he says. “It’s always good to admire someone who achieves the incredible. I also know that there’s no ceiling.
“If people like that can achieve things, then why not also believe on my stage, winning ATP tournaments? Why not?”
Australia: Max Purcell
Last year, Nick Kyrgios advanced to the Wimbledon final, snapping a drought of Grand Slam singles finalists for one of the sport’s winningest nations (the last Aussie to reach a major final was Lleyton Hewitt, in 2005). He’s been unable to build upon that so far in 2023, as he’s been sidelined by a knee surgery and subsequent recovery. But several of his countrymen have impressed this year—from unseeded duo Rinky Hijikata and Jason Kubler winning the Australian Open men’s doubles crown, to Alex de Minaur picking up the biggest title of his career in Acapulco.
Bubbling below the surface, though, has been Purcell’s rise up the rankings. Arguably the front-runner for the ATP Most Improved Player of the Year, the 25-year-old was ranked outside of the Top 200 in mid-February, but three weeks—and as many Challenger titles later—he cracked the Top 100.
“I’d just like to push my own singles ranking higher and wherever it can get to, if it’s behind or in front of the other Australians, that doesn’t matter to me,” he says, “as long as it’s going in the right direction and I’m doing everything I can.”
I’m not trying to fill in the void, so to speak. I’m just playing my tennis and enjoying it. Max Purcell
Purcell had established himself as one of the top doubles players in the world, winning Wimbledon last year and reaching two Australian Open finals. As restrictions lifted on travel and the tour resumed a sense of normalcy, he decided it was the right time to make a push in singles.
“I was always going to go back to singles, I never wanted to just play doubles,” Purcell says. “I feel like I could just go back to doubles later. And I would have been full of regret if I hadn’t given singles a proper crack.
“I still do enjoy playing doubles, I still want to try and play the biggest events in doubles, but I only want to be there if its alongside my singles component.”
Currently, there are seven Australian men in the Top 100, including the 87th-ranked Purcell, who will be playing his first Grand Slam as an automatic entrant at the French Open this year.
As for what Kyrgios accomplished, Purcell isn’t feeling the weight of trying to replicate it as he continues along this career-best stretch—one he says has been somewhat surprising.
“I didn’t expect to do this well. It’s not like I’ve gone, ‘Oh, we haven’t had enough Grand Slam singles finalists, I need to go out and win a singles Grand Slam,’” he says. “I’m not trying to fill in the void, so to speak. I’m just playing my tennis and enjoying it.”
Spain: Alejandro Davidovich Fokina
If there’s one thing that Spain has been known in the tennis landscape this millennium, it’s depth—and, of course, Rafael Nadal has led the way for most of it. After a near-perfect start to 2022, injuries have taken their toll on the former world No. 1. His young countryman Carlos Alcaraz has stepped as admirably as possible over that time, but he hasn’t been immune to health woes of his own.
True to tradition, though, the “Spanish Armada” has sailed on, and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina has carved out a prominent place among his nation’s best. Last year, in Monte Carlo, he defeated Novak Djokovic, and he's only built off that breakthrough result,
The 23-year-old is only a few weeks removed from a career-high place in the ATP standings, peaking so far at No. 24, and is coming off an impressive third-set tiebreak win over Holger Rune at home in Madrid. It then took Borna Coric three hours and 30 minutes to subdue Fokina in the next round, also in a third-set tiebreak.
“My goal this year is to not have those up and downs, to be more consistent on tour,” he told TENNIS.com in Indian Wells. “I can lose matches but I want to lose those matches playing my all and giving my everything.”