Stars to watch out for in 2020 launch

 - Alex Sharp

The finest players on the planet are currently gearing up for the first Grand Slam of the season in Melbourne. Who will spring a surprise?

Denis Shapovalov discussing with the umpire at 2019 Roland-Garros©Julien Crosnier/FFT

The focus of the tennis world is down under with the Australian Open starting in Melbourne on January 20th.

The ‘big three’ are out to maintain their grip on the Grand Slam prizes, Serena Williams is seeking the elusive 24th major, whilst Roland-Garros champion Ashleigh Barty will hope to lift the trophy aloft on home soil.

The usual suspects will be raring to go down under, but a plethora of players will be seeking a fortnight of building momentum, hoping to then spring into contention at the Australian Open. Who can disrupt the established order as we launch into 2020?

Novak Djokovic and Denis Shapovalov after 2019 Rolex Paris Masters final©Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

Dynamic Denis showing the right signs

Canadian prodigy Denis Shapovalov isn’t a new name on the scene, but his compelling Davis Cup performances at the back end of 2019 illustrated that the world No.14 is ready for his moment in the limelight.

Over to the ATP Cup and the 20-year-old has spearheaded Canada’s campaign with a trio of explosive matches. Victories over Top 10 talent Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev have highlighted a ruthless streak.

There is a swagger to the Next Gen star, his game has become more robust and his scorching shot making continues to create instant highlight reels.

A third round showing in Melbourne last campaign will surely be surpassed in 2020.

Amanda Anisimova during 2019 Roland-Garros©Cédric Lecocq/FFT

Anisimova flying the flag

Amanda Anisimova will remember 2019 for the rest of her career. Practically every time the American stepped on court she carved out a new piece of history.

The Australian Open saw the 18-year-old dismiss No.11 seed Aryna Sabalenka en route to the fourth round. Fast forward to Roland-Garros and an inspired Anisimova toppled defending champion Simona Halep during a quest to the semi-finals.

The calm exterior and persistent, attacking play portrays a fearless player, one who will expect to build on an astonishing 2019. Expect more major moves in 2020.

Spectacular dropshot volley from Alex de Minaur during 2019 US Open

Demon up to the task

He’s competing in his homeland and he is flourishing.

Alex de Minaur has risen through the rankings to become Australia’s talisman. The 20-year-old is currently turning heads with his scintillating speed and tenacity in ATP Cup action.

From a set and 2-4 down against both Zverev and Shapovalov, the world No.18 has posted victories for the green and gold.

‘Demon’ thrives in a cauldron, in difficult situations and he’s picking up impressive results along the way. Just like mentor Lleyton Hewitt, de Minaur is ready to chase every ball, every point and every title.

Cori Gauff at practice with father and coach during 2019 US Open©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Gauff can only gain

Coco Gauff simply went viral.

The 15-year-old’s Wimbledon and US Open heroics were up there in moments of the decade, let alone year in 2019.

Now with the hype swirling around her, the American has a tough task contending with the expectations and attention.

Gauff, a junior champion at Roland-Garros 2018, appears to take it all in her stride and can hopefully keep building on a maiden WTA title in Linz in October.

Whatever happens in Melbourne, it will be box office with Coco on court.

Kevin Anderson shouting as he qualifies for 2018 Wimbledon final©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Into the groove immediately for Anderson

Former Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson succumbed to knee surgery in September and you’d think it would take him a few months to rediscover his Top 10 form.

Not quite. The South African might have lost 7-6(5), 7-6(6) to Novak Djokovic at the ATP Cup, but the level was of the highest calibre. Djokovic hailed Anderson as “extraordinary.” The 33-year-old then swatted aside Chile’s Cristian Garin 6-0, 6-3.

“It felt great to be on the court; it is always nice to grab a win after such a long break,” said the towering South African. “I played a really good match against Novak, taking a lot of positive vibes from that high-level performance.”

Anderson’s capabilities combined with these ‘positive vibes’ is a dangerous concoction for opponents in 2020.

Danielle Collins shouting out of joy during 2019 Australian open©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Collins burst out the blocks

These scores say it all. Over at the Brisbane International American Danielle Collins has dismantled fourth seed Elina Svitolina 6-1, 6-1. The 26-year-old then blazed 34 winners past Yulia Putintseva in a brutal 6-1, 6-0 victory.

To say Collins is in red-hot form is an almighty understatement and she reached the Australian Open semi-finals last year. Watch out Melbourne…

Hubert Hurkacz serving at 2019 Indian Wells©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Hurkacz making his mark with a smile

Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz is relishing his rise up the tennis ladder. Three Top 30 opponents at the ATP Cup thus far and a trio of wins.

The victories over Diego Schwartzman and Borna Coric were eye-catching, but the 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(5) comeback facing world No.4 Dominic Thiem was majestic.

The 22-year-old is competing with a beaming grin on his face, he’s sliding, diving into shots and is playing with enthralling versatility.

Hurkacz fell at the first hurdle last year in Melbourne. The world No.37 has transformed since then and will be seeded for the Australian Open. What a prospect.