Alex de Minaur sparks 'sad' 51-year first for tennis after career-high rankings feat

The Aussie's surge to World No.9 has seen Stefanos Tsitsipas lose his place in the top 10.

Alex de Minaur, Jannik Sinner and Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Alex de Minaur has bumped Stefanos Tsitsipas out of the top 10 after his run to the Rotterdam Open final. Image: Getty

Alex de Minaur's return to the top 10 in the ATP rankings has resulted in an extraordinary 51-year first that's never been seen before in men's tennis. De Minaur has risen to a new career-high ranking of World No.9 after his run to the final of the Rotterdam Open.

The Aussie went down to Jannik Sinner 7-5 6-4 in Sunday night's final, but his stellar form was enough to see him break back into the top 10 of the rankings. The man to leave the top 10 as a result is Stefanos Tsitsipas, with the Greek star dipping to World No.11.

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The fact that Tsitsipas is no longer in the top 10 means for the first time since the rankings system was introduced in 1973, none of the top 10 players on the ATP tour use a one-handed backhand. Tsitsipas was the only player in the previous top 10 who doesn't use a two-handed backhand, and World No.13 Grigor Dimitrov also uses the single-handed version.

But all of the current top 10 - Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz, Jannik Sinner, Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev, Alexander Zverev, Holger Rune, Hubert Hurkacz, de Minaur and Taylor Fritz - are two-handers. Some of the most high-profile exponents of the one-handed backhand are Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka and Richard Gasquet.

“In terms of elegance and beauty, I would probably say Gasquet’s is a beautiful backhand,” Tsitsipas said previously. “Otherwise Roger’s. Roger has a very nice flow, as well. It’s poetry when you watch it.

"He can mix up the slice, which makes it an interesting combination, switching from a single-handed backhand top-spin to a slice. But I feel like Stan’s single-handed backhand down the line is much better, in my opinion, having played him.”

Stefanos Tsitsipas, pictured here playing a one-handed backhand.
Stefanos Tsitsipas plays a one-handed backhand. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

The single-handed backhand is going out of tennis fashion

But Federer is long retired and Wawrinka and Gasquet are on their last legs as professional tennis players. The fact that Tsitsipas and Dimitrov are still on the cusp of the top 10 suggests the one-handed backhand isn't dying out just yet, but tennis fans were still saddened to learn of the extraordinary 51-year first.

The single-handed backhand is a thing of beauty to watch, and a winner off the racquet always excites fans. The double-handed backhand is the more boring version and a much safer option - perhaps why it seems to be taught to younger players more and more.

Grigor Dimitrov at the Australian Open.
Grigor Dimitrov still uses a one-handed backhand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Federer admitted himself in 2018 that he'd teach his own children a two-handed backhand because it's easier to master. “From moving now on forward we will see double-handed backhands predominantly, which is how I would teach my kids, as well, to play tennis,” he said. “I think it’s just easier.”

Since 1973, 11 of the 28 players to reach World No.1 have used a single-handed backhand. But who among the current crop will be the next? Tsitsipas and Dimitrov appear long odds to climb that high, with young guns Sinner and Alcaraz seemingly set for long and successful careers at the top when Djokovic finally retires.

In 2003, there were 14 players in the top 30 of the ATP rankings who used one-handed backhands. In 2013 that number had dropped to 10, and in 2023 it was just three. It begs the sad question of whether the one-handed backhand is going extinct.

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