While only 22-years-old and lesser known than many of his international counterparts, American Tommy Paul is quietly playing the best tennis of his career and rapidly rising up the ATP Tour rankings. While just beginning to make his presence known on the world stage, Paul’s hard work and determination made him a star in the making long before he even turned professional.
As a junior, Paul was consistently one of the most highly ranked players in his class. After learning how to play the game and honing his early skills in his home state of North Carolina, Paul burst onto the national junior scene. By 2015, he reached a career-high ITF junior rank of No. 3 and reached two junior Grand Slam finals. That year, he would meet fellow American compatriot and eventual multiple-time Oracle Challenger Series champion Taylor Fritz in the finals of both the Junior French Open and US Open. The two preeminent American juniors claimed one victory a piece, and Paul turned pro immediately following the season’s conclusion.
Like so many other young players who are fresh to the professional ranks, Paul encountered his first true sense of adversity amongst the world’s elite players. While he had spent the majority of his early life in tennis as a clear-cut favorite amongst the field, he was now just one of many new competitors trying to distinguish himself and advance his career.
Nonetheless, Paul’s resilience pushed him forward as he travelled from tournament to tournament looking for a breakthrough that could elevate him to the next level of the sport. It would come soon thereafter, as he proved he belonged in the professional ranks with his first tour-level win in a victory over 53rd-ranked Paolo Lorenzi at the 2016 U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships. In the summer of 2017, Paul put together the most impressive tournament of his career at the time, as he downed then-World No. 17 Lucas Pouille in straight sets in the Round of 32 in Washington.
While those performances highlighted glimpses and flashes of Paul’s ability, it was the 2019 season, along with the beginning stages of 2020, that have showcased the full breadth of the young American’s potential. Paul captured three ATP Challenger Tour titles in 2019, including becoming the inaugural Oracle Challenger Series New Haven champion.
Paul’s win in the Elm City propelled him to his then-second Challenger title of the year (already having won in Sarasota in April), as well as marking the first time in his career that he jumped into the ATP Tour top-100. Not yet satisfied, Paul immediately followed-up his title in New Haven with another Challenger Tour trophy in Tiburon, California less than three weeks later.
As the 2020 season gets underway, Paul has found a way to continue to up his game. He continued his late-season 2019 form with an improbable run to the final four of the Australian Open tune-up event in Adelaide, where he beat three top-60 ranked players on the way to the semifinals. Then at the Australian Open, the year’s first major, he logged the biggest victory of his career by progressing to the tournament’s third round with an upset over No. 18 seed and 2017 US Open semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov.
As the year moves forward and Paul continues to progress up the ranks, he finds himself in the exact same position as when he started his tennis career: an American star in the making.