When Will The ‘NextGen’ Break Through?
After a week of mixed fortunes for those touted to succeed the Big 3 at the top of men’s tennis, many in the tennis world are puzzled as to when something will change in the top order. So, when will someone finally take the big step? And when it does happen, who will do it?
Nadal, Federer and Djokovic have dominated the Grand Slam tournaments in recent years. You have to go back to 2016 for the last time someone other than those 3 won a slam, when Stan Wawrinka won the US Open. Only Murray, Wawrinka, Cilic and del Potro have won slams (along with the Big 3) since Marat Safin’s triumph in Melbourne in 2005. However, this dominance simply cannot last forever, and things are clearly starting to change. Roger Federer has had to undergo another knee surgery and is out until the summer. Rafael Nadal has always been plagued by injuries, playing only a very select number of tournaments. Only Djokovic looks set to continue to dominate for a while, but even he has his limits, especially on the clay courts and slower hard courts.
However, the problem lays within the successors, and not those who are being succeeded. Every time any one of Thiem, Tsitsipas or Medvedev comes close to Grand Slam glory, something changes. Last year, Thiem had a poor year in the slams (except at Roland Garros), losing out early at Wimbledon and suffering from illness at the US and Australian Open. Tsitsipas also only really shone at one slam, the Australian Open while Medvedev simply overplayed on his stellar run to the US Open final and didn’t have the legs to beat Nadal over 5 sets. Nobody else in this generation of players has come close to winning a slam, with Zverev, Kyrgios and de Minuar all failing to make a serious impact at the highest level.
So, what needs to happen for something to change? In my opinion, the best chance anybody has of winning a slam outside the Big 3 is Thiem at Roland Garros at the moment. Thiem either needs to produce a miracle performance against Nadal (something which he hasn’t accomplished after 4 separate attempts) in Paris or hope that Nadal is injured or knocked out by somebody else. The same goes for other slams, where the simple answer is that someone has to step up and go all the way. Thiem nearly did it this year in Melbourne. Medvedev was also a set away in New York last year. What seems so far away may be closer than we thought, but it’s going to take a monumental effort from somebody to dethrone the great champions of our sport.
Written by Emre Saridogan