Gen Next in Men’s Tennis
A sizzling cross-court winner from Rafa, the best return of serve from Novak Djokovic, the quest of Andy Murray to keep every ball in play and the ultimate class of Roger Federer. A discussion on tennis today, and this is what comes to mind. And who can blame anyone for this? Since 2006, 51 grand slams have taken place and of these 51, only 4 slams have been won by players whose name has not been mentioned above. Such has been the dominance of the Big Four.
They say that the passing of the baton has to happen at some stage. Will this be true in Men’s tennis? Going by what I see, not in the near term. Only 3 players in the last 12 years have managed to derail the domination of the Big Four. They are Juan Martin Del Potro, Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic. Can the Argentine with his big booming forehand, or the Swiss with his single backhand or the big-serving Croat etch their names in tennis history by displacing the Big Four? With age not in their favour and each being bogged down by injuries at crucial stages of their career, probably not
There was a time when it was considered that the late 20s was the prime age to win Grand Slams and once you are into your 30s, you start contemplating retirement. Roger Federer has put to bed this school of thought and what he has achieved is remarkable. At 37 years old, Federer is still producing magic from his racquet. Since turning 35 in 2016, Federer has won 3 Grand Slams. Nadal is just 32 years old and it feels that no one can conquer him in clay. Djokovic has found his mojo again especially after his win against Nadal in the 2018 Wimbledon semi-final and he ultimately went on to win the grass-court tournament. Murray is just returning from a hip injury and will be a contender for grand slams once fully fit. Both Murray and Djokovic are 31. If these 3 players can do what Federer is doing, they are going to keep adding to their titles tally for the next 2 years at least.
A look into the ATP events and this suggests that the work for the Big Four could be cut out. Del Potro, John Isner, Alexander Zverev are some amongst the many ATP 1000 title winners. The way Kevin Anderson played in this year’s Wimbledon was heartening to see. Kei Nishikori has always been knocking on the doors of a Grand Slam Title. There have also been entertainers and acrobats like Dustin Brown and Gael Monfils who could pull off upsets. But ATP events are just 3 setters as compared to the 5 set Grand Slam matches. When the format is shortened, the differences between players are masked and hence drawing a conclusion on Grand Slams based on ATP tournaments, wouldn’t be accurate.
Having said that there surely are a lot of talented players comprising the GenNext. Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Nick Kyrgios are some, amongst many of the upcoming talents. There are also veterans like Kevin Anderson, Joe Wilfred Tsonga amongst many others. But to dethrone the Big Four, they would need to raise their games to another level. It took Anderson, 24 games in the 5th set to defeat Federer at the 2018 Wimbledon quarter-finals and yet he lost to Djokovic in the finals having given his all. This in itself talks about the mountains that these players have to climb in order to win a Grand Slam.
At the moment it seems that Grand Slams will be dominated by Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray and they will be the flag bearers of the sport for the next 2 years at least. The GenNext has made its presence felt but will take time to take over the baton from the Big Four.