Rogers Cup 2019 Preview: In the absence of Federer and Djokovic, can the youngsters stop Rafael Nadal from winning a fifth title?
The dominance of the big three in modern tennis – Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic- has been such that for almost a decade and a half, none outside the group have had any realistic chance of winning big titles consistently. Only Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka have managed to pose some challenge to their dominance, each winning three grand slams apiece. But with Murray struggling to recuperate from a career-threatening injury and Wawrinka sill not back to his best after his injury, it is up to the youngsters to stand up to the big three.
In the grand slams, it has seemed impossible till now. The five-set matches ensure that the experienced trio have the time to get back into the match from even two sets down, with their superior skills and experience trumping the youthful energy of their young opponents.
However, it is at the next best level after the grand slams, i.e. the Masters, that the youngsters are more likely to challenge the big three. But even here, barring Alexander Zverev to some extent, no one has really stepped up. Most of the Masters 1000 titles are still being one by the big three.
In that context, the upcoming Rogers Cup presents a great opportunity for the young rising stars to prevent one of the big three from capturing yet another big title. Their job has become a little less difficult this time with the withdrawals of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.
Of the three, Rafael Nadal is possibly the weakest on hard courts. His record on hard court is comparatively inferior to those of his illustrious rivals. However, he is no novice, as his multiple grand slams on the hard courts (US Open and Australian Open) testify. His record on hard court masters titles is also not something to be scoffed at. He is the defending champion at Rogers Cup, and will be eyeing a fifth title there.
Just like the youngsters like Zverev, Tsitsipas, Khachanov and others, Nadal too would be sensing a great opportunity in the absence of Federer and Djokovic. The big question is: Can any of the youngsters stop him? Or for that matter, will any not-so-young players such as Wawrinka or Cilic challenge him? At the moment, irrespective of how the draw pans out, Nadal is an overwhelming favourite to add yet another Masters title to his kitty!