The road ahead for Men's tennis: Will Novak Djokovic's dominance continue or will a challenger rise?
The first Sunday of June was a special one. What we witnessed was truly spectacular and awe-inspiring, to say the least. Novak Djokovic finally conquered the Parisian red dirt and equalled Roy Emerson's record of 12 grand slam victories. And by doing that, he has entered an elite list of personalities who have managed to lift all four slams. It speaks volumes about one's achievements when the list includes the likes of Rod Laver, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
It is a dream for any tennis professional to win a grand slam but when you are able to win multiple trophies on all surfaces and that too with consistency over a long period of time, you transcend into a league of legends that inspire generations on and off the court. The game's status is elevated to new heights by such performances. When Novak started, tennis courts were a fortress for Federer and Nadal. Their dominance over the sport was unparalleled.
Novak literally played under their shadows and kept improving his game day in day out. And his talent was there for everyone to see. From initial failures to flashes of brilliance and then finally dethroning the masters on their own turf, he has done it all through immense hard work & dedication.
And this year's victory at Roland Garros was a prime example of that sheer perseverance, which he has put during the last decade. His dominance over the sport in the last couple of years has won him admirers all across the globe.
So what's next? Tennis is at the cusp of an intriguing phase. For the first time in this century, we have a witnessed a grand slam without the Swiss Maestro. At 34, age and injuries (back issues) are catching up and the road ahead seems extremely tough.
We have all been privileged to be born in the same era as Federer, but even legends are mortals and his artistry may just be a thing of past considering how sporadic his appearances have been recently. Though being a die hard fan, I always want to see him play but the odds are stacked up against him.
As far as Rafa is concerned, age is on his side but his body may not be. The wrist injury that forced his withdrawal from the French Open and the upcoming Wimbledon has put question marks over his longevity. The amount of stress his body has undergone (especially his knees) considering his ruthless style of play over the past decade or so is finally taking its toll.
Even a fully fit Rafa has not been able to overcome a resilient Djokovic which has not helped matters either. His dominance over the sport has denied both these greats further shots at grand slam glory in the last couple of years and with time not on their side, these opportunities would be hard to come by in the future.
And the Scot - Andy Murray (the last of big four) has always fallen short against Djokovic in recent times. Although his consistency has improved on clay courts. he needs to do a bit more if he is to add to his grand slam tally. Like Novak, he has fitness on his side but he needs to better his good friend in crucial moments.
What the others can offer?
There is another Swiss superstar, two-time grand slam winner Stan Wawrinka, who is not exactly at the same level of consistency as the big four, has the ability to dish out breathtaking tennis on any given day. But consistency is his Achilles heel. And then, there have been the likes of Tomas Berdych, Tsonga & Ferrer who have tried their level best to dethrone these champions but have always come up short.
And what about the future grand slam winners, the stars of tomorrow! Kei Nishikori & Milos Raonic did come up the ranks by 2014 but have struggled to establish their might. Lots is expected from these two and hopefully, they’ll do justice to their potential. The next generation’s slow and steady rise through the ranks has been highlighted by tremendous performances from the likes of Dominic Thiem and David Goffin.
Thiem is a future slam winner, without a doubt. His semifinal showing at Roland Garros is a bright sign for the sport. Goffin is closing in on Top 10 in the Emirates ATP rankings as well. And with the likes of Kyrigos, Coric & Zverev showing glimpses of brilliance here and there, the future of professional tennis looks bright.
So can Djokovic complete a calendar grand slam this year? Considering his form and the form and fitness of his peers, it seems a possibility. Or will a challenger crop up from the names suggested above? Only time will tell!
Exciting times ahead for Men's tennis.