Since winning the junior French Open crown in 2015 and cracking the Top 200 in early 2016, Tommy Paul has fallen behind the likes of fellow young Americans Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe and Jared Donaldson.
But despite falling as low as No. 400 earlier this season, over the last couple of weeks, Paul has shown why he is a threat for the Top 100, or even Top 50. The 20-year-old made the quarterfinals in Atlanta as a qualifier before beating two Top 25 opponents in Washington, and coming within a point of beating Kei Nishikori.
D.C. I love y'all. pic.twitter.com/iPFflyXWnv— Tommy Paul (@TommyPaul1) August 5, 2017
His efforts have been rewarded with a wildcard into the main draw of the US Open. Paul has a well-rounded game that includes important individual skills that will allow him to succeed professionally long-term.
It is no secret that Nishikori has one of the best two-handed backhands in the world, yet Paul did not panic whenever he had to engage in backhand-to-backhand rallies against his Top 10 foe in Washington. Paul has a brief stroke on the backhand wing that allows him to use his opponent’s pace while avoiding many wild mistakes.
Take a look:
In a way, technique-wise, Paul’s backhand is not all that different from Nick Kyrgios’. The American has said in various interviews that he prefers his forehand, especially to finish points, but a concise backhand stroke that can comfortably stay in rallies with Nishikori is impressive to say the least.
Paul’s more dynamic groundstroke is his forehand, which he is able to use to both open the court with angles and finish with power.
The American’s elastic, whippy swing allows him to get his racquet face below the level of the ball just before he accelerates to his contact point. That gives the ball an up-and-down motion that helps him hit the ball high over the net without worrying about his shots flying into the fence. He can also swing straight through the ball, which allows him to flatten out his forehand and take advantage of shorter balls.
Short balls often come as a result of his serve, which is huge for a player who stands at 6-foot-1. Paul engages most of his body in his service motion.
He gets a deep knee bend to engage his legs, allowing him to explode upward as he turns his hips and reaches toward his contact point to strike the ball. That deep knee bend also gives him the option of aggressively brushing up the back of the ball to hit a big kick—or topspin—serve.
Using the body to push up and strike the serve is important, and that has not been ignored by the Paul camp:
None of that even touches Paul’s movement and speed on the court, which is arguably his greatest asset, and one of the reasons he has found success on clay, like he did at Roland Garros.
What is missing in this equation? A glaring weakness.
Most of Paul’s game is solid with the potential to improve, which means that beating Lucas Pouille, Gilles Muller and nearly taking down Nishikori was not a fluke. Watch out closely for the youngster in New York City.
Follow Andrew on Twitter: @andrewikesports
Andrew Eichenholz is a coach at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, NY, and has coached the Stony Brook University women's tennis team.