Michelsen, Shang, Van Assche impress in Melbourne
Breakthrough runs and standout wins were the story for #NextGenATP players at the Australian Open, where the sports future stars made their mark.
The Chinese lefty Shang Juncheng backed up his semi-final run at the ATP 250 in Hong Kong by reaching the third round at a major for the first time. The 18-year-old defeated Mackenzie McDonald in five sets and Sumit Nagal in four sets to set his first Lexus ATP Head2Head meeting with Carlos Alcaraz. However, it proved a match too far for Shang, who was forced to retire with a leg injury. He left Melbourne at No. 139 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings.
“I actually spoke to my coach just before leaving pre-season coming to Hong Kong and to Australia. He says, If you expect nothing, then everything you get is overachieving,” Shang said after his second-round win.
“For me, I've been just kind of having low expectations, just starting from scratch. It's always an opportunity for me to learn because last year I played one year on Tour, this is my second year, so everything is still kind of new to me. He was kind of expecting me to do well after this really good pre-season with my team, but also at the same time this is very good for me and a very good experience.”
Photo Credit: David Gray/AFP via Getty Images
American Alex Michelsen, who competed at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Jeddah last year, also advanced to the third round at a major for the first time.
Michelsen defeated James McCabe and seed Jiri Lehecka before falling to Alexander Zverev. The 19-year-old’s previous best result at a Slam was reaching the second round at the US Open in September. Michelsen, who advanced to his maiden tour-level final in Newport last season, is up 18 spots to No. 73 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings following his success in Melbourne.
Frenchman Luca Van Assche, who beat Michelsen in Jeddah, completed the set of teenagers to reach the third round at the hard-court major. The 19-year-old won five-set thrillers against James Duckworth and Lorenzo Musetti.
The last time three teenagers had reached the third round in Melbourne before this year was in 2019 (Alex de Minaur, Denis Shapovalov, Alexei Popyrin). Michelsen was proud of how he and his fellow youngsters competed in Melbourne.
"It is really cool having a group of us," Michelsen told ATPTour.com. "We push each other. I played Luca [Van Assche] at Next Gen and he barely got me, unfortunately. We say hi in the locker room and it is really great to have each of us pushing each other."
Photo Credit: Getty Images
World No. 34 Frenchman Arthur Fils advanced to the second round, while 18-year-old’s Jakub Mensik and Dino Prizmic came through qualifying to make waves.
The Czech Mensik upset former World No. 10 Denis Shapovalov to reach the second round, while Croatian Prizmic took a set off Novak Djokovic in an enthralling four-hour first-round clash on Rod Laver Arena.
Djokovic was full of praise for Prizmic following their match.
“I love the way he uses every inch of the court. He is comfortable coming in, he defends incredibly well,” said Djokovic in his on-court interview after beating the #NextGenATP Croatian in the longest first-round match of his career. “Just an amazing performance for someone who is 18 years old and never had an experience of playing on a big stage.
“Big kudos to him and his team, and I certainly want to be in his corner, so hopefully he will invite me because he is going to do some big things in his career.”
Prizmic is up 18 places to No. 168 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, with Mensik No. 126.
Photo Credit: Getty Images