The under-21 stars made quite the statement in first round matches at the Shanghai Rolex Masters on Monday. Three of the four young guns that played afternoon matches – Hyeon Chung of Korea, and qualifiers Frances Tiafoe of the U.S. and Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece – moved onto the second round.
The 21-year-old Chung was the first to reach the match winner’s circle when he upset ninth seed and last year’s finalist Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain 6-4, 6-3 on the Qi Zhong Stadium centre court.
“Today, I was trying to stay calm all the time in the match,” Chung said. “I won so I did everything good.”
This was a second career meeting between Chung and Bautista Agut. The last time they met was in the 2016 Dubai round-of-16 and the Korean could only muster enough fight to win one game in the encounter.
On Monday, however, Chung was a very different player as he controlled the match. On match point, Chung hit a forehand winner from way off the court to close the match in his favor.
“It was 50-50 I’d make that shot,” Chung said. “But it was 40-love so I had nothing to lose.”
The 92nd-ranked Tiafoe posted a 6-4, 6-4 win over 38th-ranked Benoit Paire of France in a first meeting between the two players. Tiafoe, 19, was playing his first ATP tour-level match since he extended Roger Federer to five sets in the US Open first round.
“Everyone is doing their thing and we all grew up together,” Tiafoe said. “A lot of us younger guys are playing well, doing well, and it’s going to help others step up. I think you’re going to see a lot of us in the top 50. The other guys are going to have to leave eventually.”
In a battle between two new generation players, 19-year-old Tsitsipas, currently ranked No. 131, scored the 7-5, 6-3 win over the 21-year-old Russian Karen Khachanov, who weighs in at a much better No. 40 in the world.
Tremendously popular here in Shanghai, Federer’s message to fans was that he’s ready to compete for the title. He is the only player in the men’s singles draw who owns a Shanghai Rolex Masters trophy, which he earned in 2014.
“I’m here for a reason, I’m here for a purpose, hopefully to do well and winning the tournament,” Federer said. “I always make it a priority that I’m in good shape here in Shanghai. I’m happy to be here and happy I’m healthy.”
Adding to the parade of young ones was Andrey Rublev, yet another 21-and-under player to advance on Monday by taking a 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 first round outing over Damir Dzuhmur of Bosnia-Hercegovinia.
The 16th-seeded Juan Martin del Potro escaped a feisty battle with Georgian qualifier Nikoloz Basilashvili to move into the second round with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 win. Del Potro, a 2013 Shanghai finalist, saved six of eight break points he faced. He won 40 of 49 points on his first serve, but struggled with his second serve, only winning 13 of 30 points on his second serve.