Who is Jakub Mensik? The rising star who got an exclusive invite from Novak Djokovic

Tennis365
Jakub Mensik headshot
Czech player Jakub Mensik poses for a portrait prior

Czech teenager Jakub Mensik has caused a stir on the ATP Tour in recent weeks, stunning three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray and top seed Andrey Rublev at the Qatar Open.

The 18-year-old is through to his maiden singles semi-final and will rise up into the top 100 after his thrilling run in Doha.

The youngster has learned from the experience of practising with world No 1 Novak Djokovic and credits his idol with kick-starting his career. But just who is Jakub Mensik?

Recent results

Mensik, ranked 116th in the world, defeated fifth seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in straight sets in the opening round before he faced Murray, ultimately winning 7-6 (8-6) 6-7 (3-7) 7-6 (7-4).

Former Wimbledon winner Murray had set point in the first set and battled back from two breaks down at 5-2 in the third as nerves started to creep in for his young opponent. But Mensik showed his quality to get over the line after three hours and 24 minutes, the Qatar Open’s longest-ever match.

He underlined his credentials with a shock straight set win over in-form world No 5 and tournament top seed Andrey Rublev, winning 6-4, 7-6 (8-6) against the ten-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist.

What makes his successful run all the more impressive is the fact the youngster is competing as a wildcard in his first ATP 250. The Next Gen Accelerator Programme gives players aged 20 and under in the top 250 a wildcard entry into one ATP 250 draw.

He takes on French veteran Gael Monfils in his semi-final debut, who won the title here in 2018 and at age 37 becomes the oldest semi-finalist in Doha’s history – almost double Mensik’s age.

Where it started

From the small city of Prostejov, Mensik started playing aged four. He grew up opposite two outdoor tennis courts and asked his parents to take him – and the rest is history.

Coming from the Czech Republic Mensik joins a long list of promising tennis players, although predominantly on the WTA, including two-time Grand Slam champion Petra Kvitova.

With his breakthrough into the top 100 he becomes the youngest Czech man in the top 100 and the country’s third-best player, after another rising star 22-year-old Jiri Lechecka and Tomas Mahac.

Mensik grew up watching world No 1 Novak Djokovic dominate the sport and in a recently-published video by the ATP said: “My tennis inspiration is Novak Djokovic. Because of him, I started to play tennis. He is my biggest idol.”

Mensik’s early successes

His best result on the junior tour came in early 2022, when he finished runner-up in the Australian Open junior singles final. He suffered muscle cramps in the final, like many other promising players his age when they start out playing more demanding tournaments.

But his run to the final drew the attention of world No 1 Novak Djokovic, who Mensik says invited him to practise with him. He told the Express Sport: “He knew that he was my biggest idol, so he invited me to Belgrade and then after to Montenegro to spend some days with him practising.

“It’s really nice that one of the best players in history invited me and I had that opportunity to play against him. I was just watching him and trying to analyse his routines and everything. So all of these experiences and advice for the future and for matches are just really good.”

He put that experience to good use. The teenager only turned pro in 2022 and won his first Challenger event in May 2023, in just his sixth Challenger main draw appearance. He became the youngest Czech Challenger champion in history aged just 17 at the 2023 Sparta Prague Open, beating another young prospect Brendan Nakashima on the way and Dominik Koepfer in the final.

It drew parallels to another Czech player, former world No 4 Tomas Berdych, who was also 17 when he won two Challenger titles in 2003.

He entered his maiden senior Grand Slam at the US Open 2023, beating Fabio Fognini, Lendro Riedi, and fellow Czech Zdenek Kolar in the qualifying rounds. Mensik’s meteoric rise continued as he defeated two Frenchmen in the opening two rounds before losing in straight sets to American world No 9 Taylor Fritz.

Breakthrough

Still outside the top 100, Mensik went through three rounds of qualifying to get into the Australian Open this January, beating Nakashima again in straight sets in only his second senior Grand Slam.

His first opponent was former world No 10 Denis Shapovalov, who has struggled to get back to his best form in recent years. Mensik appeared undaunted by the big stage and beat the Canadian in straight sets, before testing current world No 8 Hubert Hurkacz in a five-set epic which the teenager ultimately lost. But that impressive form has carried on to Doha, where he has earned his first top ten victory and will now become the youngest man in the top 100.

In his own words

Speaking after beating Rublev in the upset of the tournament, he said: “It’s just been an incredible week. From the beginning I played very well and I knew I could play with the big players. It’s an amazing feeling to reach the semi-finals after beating those good players.”

He also credited the Next Gen Accelerator Programme, adding: “It’s incredible for young players to have the opportunity to play these tournaments.”

When asked why he chose Doha as his ATP 250 tournament, he said: “Because I received a free iPhone! But no, actually I have to say that I just didn’t have the opportunity before, and this is the first tournament I managed to attend.”

What is next?

It seems likely that the 18-year-old’s sensation season will continue, with a rise further up the top 100 not off the cards. He doesn’t seem fazed by taking on some of the best players in the world, as evidenced by his straightforward triumph over Rublev.

He hit 18 winners, including 12 aces in his match against Murray and another 10 aces against Rublev, making his serve a considerable weapon alongside his athleticism. More impressively, he showed the mental strength necessary to compete at a high level by holding his nerve in the final set against Murray, clinging on to win the tiebreak after losing a 5-2 lead. And he didn’t seem affected by the physical strain of spending almost three and a half hours on court.

By beating Rublev, Mensik became the youngest player to defeat one in the top five since a certain Carlos Alcaraz eliminated Stefanos Tsitsipas at the 2021 US Open. Comparisons to one of the sport’s biggest stars may be unhelpful – but it’s clear Mensik has some huge potential and is one to watch for the future.

By Flo Clifford