#NextGenATP star plays Dimitrov in second round at ATP Masters 1000

It has been a whirlwind year for Jakub Mensik.

Twelve months ago, the #NextGenATP star was No. 341 in the PIF ATP Rankings and competing at an ATP Challenger Tour event in his home country of the Czech Republic. Now, the 18-year-old is one of the fastest-rising talents on Tour and regularly going to toe-to-toe with the world’s best.

On Saturday, the current World No. 74 Mensik will seek his 10th tour-level win of 2024 when he plays Grigor Dimitrov in an intriguing second-round clash at the Mutua Madrid Open. The Czech’s rapid progress is plain to see from his recent results, and Mensik acknowledges he can sense his step up in level as he goes about his business on court.

“I can feel the difference,” Mensik told ATPTour.com after beating Yannick Hanfmann in straight sets Thursday on event debut in Madrid. “Last year [at this time] I won my first Challenger on a clay court and I was No. 300 or whatever. I can feel the difference in my game. I’m very excited about my team, we did a great job, so I’m very happy that the journey went so fast.

“One year later I’m here in Madrid, playing one of the nicest tournaments on the ATP Tour. I’m very excited what will be happening this time next year too.”

Travelling around the globe taking on the world’s best hasn’t just impacted Mensik’s life on court. The Czech has also had the chance to visit a host of new places and take in new experiences, the latest of which came last Sunday when he watched Real Madrid beat its great rival Barcelona in a thrilling La Liga football clash.

“During the tournaments I don’t have a lot of time to see the world or the cities. Right now we are in Madrid so it was a cool experience to see this game,” said Mensik, who is a Slavia Prague fan but was rooting for Real Madrid when he watched El Clásico. “I think it was one of the best experiences. You could also call it sightseeing, visiting the Bernabeu stadium.”

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Aside from his excellent progress so far in 2024, Mensik has other reasons to think he can upset the Miami finalist and World No. 10 Dimitrov in the pair's maiden Lexus ATP Head2Head meeting. Due to the relatively high altitude of Madrid, the clay courts at the Caja Magica are some of the fastest on Tour. That suits the 6’4” Mensik, who is playing in his first ATP Tour event on clay, down to the ground.

“I think everything here is good for me, because the clay court is super fast,” said Mensik, who is currently second in the PIF ATP Live Race To Jeddah as he chases a debut appearance at the season-ending Next Gen ATP Finals presented by PIF. “With the altitude here, it is crazy how the ball flies during the serve motion or during the point. I think that is better for me.

“It’s [like] hard courts with some clay on it. So it’s much faster than other courts and because I am very tall, have a big serve, and play fast from the baseline, it is better for me to play on than some slower courts.”

Mensik reached the third round at the 2023 US Open on his tour-level debut and registered his first Top 10 win earlier this season, when he defeated then-World No. 5 Andrey Rublev en route to his maiden ATP Tour final in Doha. He will hope to notch another notable victory in his young career on Saturday against a player he has vague memories of from a previous visit to Madrid.

“I visited with my parents five years ago to watch,” recalled Mensik, when asked if he had been to the Caja Magica before. “I think I watched [Grigor’s] match here. In the past few tournaments, he has been in good form. In Miami he showed that he can still play with the best and he has reached the Top 10 again.

“It will be a very difficult match for me, but I’m very excited, with my game here and also I feel very good on court. I think I have a big opportunity to again beat one of the best players in the world right now. We will see, but Grigor is a very good player and has a lot of experience, so of course it will be very difficult.”