Guy Forget believes tennis will take a hit after the departures of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, but hopes big-ticket events like Wimbledon and the French Open will continue to be attractive destinations for fans.
Djokovic and Nadal are both in their mid-30s, while Federer is 40. As such, the three rivals are likely to call time on their careers sooner rather than later. Considering their popularity, their retirement will undoubtedly have a detrimental effect on the sport.
But Guy Forget, France's former Davis Cup captain, is not too pessimistic about the future of tennis. The Frenchman pointed out how former greats such as Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras, and Andre Agassi were all replaced by players from the subsequent generation.
“We grew up with Borg, McEnroe and Connors," Forget said on Swiss Radio Television. "It was monumental what these players brought to the game, to tennis. In France, we had nearly 2 million licensees. Tennis exploded during this time. And then after we were like, 'what's going to happen when these boys stop playing?' And then after them, we had Agassi, Sampras and then a little drop."
Forget highlighted that Sampras and Agassi's void ended up getting filled by none other than Djokovic, Federer, and Nadal, who have taken the sport to new heights.
The Frenchman reckons there will be a "bottoming out" following the Big 3's retirement, but is confident that the biggest tournaments will continue to draw talented players and fan support.
"And then Roger (Federer) arrived, then Rafa (Nadal) and Novak (Djokovic). And we say to ourselves: 'better than that, it is not possible'," he added.
"I believe that there, the big tournaments like Wimbledon and Roland Garros, are unmissable events that will continue to thrill young players," Forget continued. "So there will be a little bottoming out when Roger, Rafa and Novak stop, but I’m hopeful that people will continue to line up in throngs in front of the Porte d'Auteuil (Paris Metro station connecting fans to Roland Garros) or Wimbledon."
How many years on tour do Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal have left?
Roger Federer's future is the easiest to predict given the Swiss' unfortunate tryst with injuries since 2020. Federer recently underwent a third surgery on his knee, and was spotted on crutches.
The 20-time Major champion previously mentioned that he would like to make a comeback to the sport next year. But even if he does manage to do that, it is difficult to see him play beyond 2022.
Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic has shown that he is still fit as a fiddle at 34. Even though the Serb showed signs of emotional and physical fatigue during the Olympics and the US Open, he still managed to produce stellar results at both events.
If Djokovic stays motivated, he could well play at a high level for another 4-5 years.
Rafael Nadal, like Federer, has been bothered by his body throughout the season. He sustained a back problem in the lead up to the Australian Open. Later in the season, his chronic foot injury flared up, forcing him to prematurely end his campaign.
Nadal will turn 36 in 2022, and given his taxing style of play, it would not be surprising to see him call it a career in the next 2-3 years.