By Damian Kust
In light of the recent maiden ATP titles for Felix Auger-Aliassime or Alexander Bublik, I decided to look for players who still haven’t reached that milestone but are likely going to do so sooner than later (for the purpose of this article, let’s say I think they have a good chance to have that box checked by the end of the year).
- Jenson Brooksby (0-2 in ATP Tour finals)
It’s still a little bit of an enigma whether Jenson Brooksby will be able to contend for big titles, but one of these 250s in the United States will soon be his. Both finals he’s been in so far had him take on a big server – Kevin Anderson in Newport, Reilly Opelka in Dallas, and falling in straight sets, mostly due to lost tie-breakers. The American’s consistency and unique strokes make him an extremely tricky opponent to face. If he can keep working on getting more free points, it’s no question in my mind that he’ll lock up his maiden title soon. Fantastic competitor.
- Brandon Nakashima (0-2 in ATP Tour finals)
Starting the list with two Americans – Brandon Nakashima lost to John Isner in Atlanta and Cameron Norrie in Los Cabos last year, but he’ll surely get more opportunities than that in the future. With perhaps the best backhand out of all the active players from the States, the 20-year-old is bound to continue his forward progress and seems far too talented to keep missing out on his first title. As with Brooksby, the best opportunity should be at American 250s.
- Botic van de Zandschulp (no finals yet)
Ever since his breakout US Open run, Botic van de Zandschulp has been proving that he absolutely belongs at this level. He hasn’t come close to a title yet, only reaching one semifinal in Saint Petersburg, but has impressively won his opening match in all but one event. The Dutchman has just one ATP Challenger Tour title, but was always very good at winning at least one or two matches in all tournaments played. I suppose his main tour career might follow a similar pattern.
- Lorenzo Musetti (no finals yet)
This is certainly a little optimistic, counting on the fact that Lorenzo Musetti will find his way again. The talent is there but his game is so varied, to an extent that makes it somewhat hard to execute, especially when he’s been struggling for confidence (like in the past year or so). The clay season is coming, though, and that’s obviously where the Italian will always be dangerous. Recent weeks showed some improvement in Musetti’s game, so let’s see if it continues.
- Arthur Rinderknech (0-1 in ATP Tour finals)
Since the former Texas A&M standout emerged onto the tour, he’s been making quarterfinals literally left and right. He only got his first ATP win in Marseille last year, but has already managed to reach the final eight at this level of competition a total of nine times. So many appearances at the business end of 250s make me feel like a title at one of them is inevitable. The only final so far had him lose a tough three-set battle to Thanasi Kokkinakis in Adelaide. You’d think that with his serve and forehand Rinderknech would be less likely to succeed on clay, but he actually enjoys the extra time to set up his strokes and protect the backhand better, still throwing in plenty of netplay. That makes him dangerous in all conditions.
- Filip Krajinovic (0-4 in ATP Tour finals)
I think Filip Krajinovic missing out on an ATP title would be a travesty, he’s also the only player on the list with finals above the 250 level (1000 in Paris and 500 in Hamburg). The Serbian’s peak playing strength is incredible, but he’s always been brought down by his mental issues, blowing leads, particularly against higher-ranked opposition. Time is running out for Krajinovic and with every new season, the chance that he’ll ever be crowned an ATP champion gets smaller.
Notable skips? I reckon players like Sebastian Baez, Holger Rune, or Jiří Lehečka might have to wait some more, I could be underestimating Lloyd Harris but his early days of 2022 have been rather poor and I’m not sure he’s capable of having such a good season again. Alejandro Tabilo came so close in Cordoba, but with the Golden Swing coming to an end, maybe not this year. Jan-Lennard Struff is probably one of the best players without a title in terms of the overall resume, but if I had to make a pick I’d say he might have missed his best chance already.