By Justin Ross
In its 32-year history, the Miami Open has hosted its fair share of young stars who have spiraled into legendary performers. In 1998, it was an 18-year-old Venus Williams who raised her first trophy at the event. In 2004, Miami gave birth to the first of many contests between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
In 2017, a new generation of stars is among the field. Five American players who are 21 and younger competed in the 2017 Miami Open. Here’s how they did:
Maryland native Tiafoe was a qualifier in the tournament. At age, 19 he’s the youngest of the group, but don’t let his age fool you.
After taking care of two qualifiers, he defeated Russia’s Konstantin Kravchuk for the second time in two weeks 7-5, 5-7, 6-1.
In the round of 64, Tiafoe was paired against one of his idols in Roger Federer. In the first set of their match, Tiafoe proved he could hang by taking Federer to tiebreak. He would lose to the Swiss magician 7-6(2), 6-3.
“I think he's going to be really good, like most of the NextGen campaign, if you like, are going to be good players. Plus, they're pushing each other up right now. They have a good dynamic. They are quite friendly also with one another yet they have good rivalry,” Federer said post-match.
Born just 10 days before Tiafoe is 19-year-old Michael Mmoh, a wildcard and Florida resident. Mmoh has shown tremendous growth over the past year. He entered 2016’s Miami tournament at No. 370, but now he’s up to a career-high No. 179.
In the round of 128, Frenchman Nicholas Mahut defeated Mmoh 6-3, 6-2. Mahut enters the round of 16 with a match against Rafael Nadal, which proves he’s a respectable opponent and someone Mmoh can learn from.
The last of the 19-year-olds is Taylor Fritz, a California native. In 2017, he reached his 5th ATP Challenger Tour final in Dallas. At Indian Wells, Fritz had an impressive second-round a win over then world No. 7 Marin Cilic. This marked his first victory over a top 10 competitor.
He entered the main draw in Miami with a win over Adam Pavlasek 6-2, 6-3. In the round of 64, he lost to Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber, but not after taking him to tiebreak in a third set! The result was 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(4).
The California native may be just 20 years old, but he already has two ATP Challenger titles. At age 19, he secured his first victory against a top 100 opponent against Diego Schwartzman, and earlier this year he won in his opener at the Australian Open.
In Miami, two victories in qualifying awarded him a slot in the main draw. In main play, he had his first win over a top 50 opponent when he beat word No. 43 Daniel Evans 7-5, 0-6, 6-3.
In his second round, he pushed Spain’s Fernando Verdasco to tiebreak in the first set, but he was ultimately defeated 7-6(9), 7-5.
In 2015, Donaldson did not drop a set in route to his first ATP Challenger Tour singles title. In September of 2016, Donaldson broke into the top 100 world rankings. His run at the 2017 Miami Open has him primed for another huge year.
After defeating two qualifiers in straight sets, Donaldson hasn’t looked back.
In his first match in the main draw, he defeated No. 45 Kyle Edmund 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-2. He followed the victory with another win over a top 50 competitor when he defeated No. 33 Mischa Zverev 6-4, 6-4.
In the third round, he achieved his first win over a top 10 competitor when Milos Raonic had to retire from play due to injury.
Donaldson is the first qualifier to reach the round of 16 in Miami since 2011. He will battle another American in Jack Sock. The two are set to battle on Tuesday.