Youth will be served at China Open

The surging youth movement in men’s tennis will thrill fans at this year’s China Open as a group of elite young stars are primed to compete in the Sept 30-Oct 6 ATP 500 tournament at the National Tennis Center in north Beijing.

Leading a strong early-entry field is Austria’s world No 4 Dominic Thiem, primed for a breakthrough in his return to the Chinese capital after a two-year hiatus. The 25-year-old is determined to make his third appearance a memorable one after bowing out in the first round in both 2015 and 2016.

“It’s been a while since my last trip to Beijing, but I hope this will be a successful comeback for me at the China Open,” said Thiem, who won his second-round match on Wednesday in the Generali Open, an ATP 250 event in his home country.

“It’s an outstanding tournament and has been home for lots of great players in the past. I’m hoping many fans come out to watch me and other top ATP Tour stars compete on the Diamond Court.”

Joining Thiem in the first group of players confirmed by the tournament on Wednesday will be rising Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas, Russia’s world No 8 Karen Khachanov and 18-year-old Canadian prodigy Felix Auger-Aliassime.

The arrival of such a young legion, all born after 1993, will showcase the next galaxy of men’s stars in front of the game’s growing fanbase in China, said organizers.

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“We are excited to have this group all together in Beijing, which certainly will entertain the fans,” said China Open tournament director Zhang Junhui.

Having pulled off a series of upsets against the world’s best this year, these future stars are eager to continue challenging their major-winning elite rivals on the tour’s Asia swing.

Thiem claimed a career breakthrough in March when he won the prestigious ATP Masters 1000 event at Indian Wells, beating 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer.

Several weeks later, the 13-time ATP event winner registered another milestone victory by beating Spain’s clay-court master Rafael Nadal on his favorite surface in the semifinals of the Barcelona Open.

At the French Open, Thiem proved his resilience by outlasting world No 1 Novak Djokovic in five sets over two days in the semifinals to reach his second Grand Slam final on the heels of a 2018 final appearance at Roland Garros.

The Austrian is famous for his superb ground strokes, ranging from a powerful one-handed backhand to a punishing forehand. He also possesses a forceful serve.

“Thiem’s outstanding performance, charming appearance and sharp touch have won him a large following worldwide,” said Zhang. “He is going to be one of the most popular players at this year’s China Open.”

The rise of Tsitsipas is another feel-good story. Having won two titles and reached a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time at this year’s Australian Open, the Greek is playing at a torrid pace and looks set to maintain his early-season form in Beijing.

The 20-year-old beat Federer 3-1 in the fourth round in Melbourne to mark his biggest career win to date.

“I’ve heard a lot of exciting things about the China Open and I know the fans in Beijing are extremely passionate,” said Tsitsipas, at No 6 the youngest player in the world’s top 10.

“I can’t wait to experience China’s culture and passion for the game.”

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