The Rise of the (not so) Younger Generation
Posted on April 26 2018
The Tennis Royalty
As Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, and Novak Djokovic have approached and subsequently entered into their thirties, the world has been waiting for a new crop of youngsters to take over the mantle. But, as Federer rolls on in his 36th year, the rise of the youngsters has failed to materialize in any meaningful way. A quick look at the world rankings, and you can find just two players 25 and under (Zverev no. 4 and Thiem no. 7) in the top ten and 6 players 25 and under in the top 20 (Pouille no 11, Schwartzman no. 15, Sock no. 17 and Chung no. 19) This is despite the fact that perennial top ten players like Murray, Wawrinka, and Tsonga don’t currently feature. So why is the younger generation finding it so hard to crack the top 20 and who are the ones that are tipped for success?
It’s hard to talk about the younger generation of tennis players without starting with Nick Kyrigos. The 22-year-old is an immense talent and a brilliant athlete which should have seen him easily make the list as a top 20 player. Unfortunately for Kyrigos though, what he makes up for in talent, he lacks on the mental side of the game, and this has so far proved to be the achilles heel of his career.
Kyrigos is currently ranked at number 25 in the world, having reached a career high at number 13 in October 2016. While the young Australian possesses incredible power and ability with a racket in his hands, his mental fragility shows in his Grand Slam record, where he has made just two quarterfinals. If Federer and co have taught us anything, it's that for all their immense talent, it is the mental strength that really makes the difference come Grand Slam time, and this is something Kyrigos will have to improve immensely if he is to follow through on his potential.
At just 20 years old, Alexander Zverev is the youngest player in the world’s top 30 and with a ranking of number 4 has found the kind of consistency that has so far eluded Kyrigos. However, when it comes to the biggest stage, Zverev, like Kyrigos has often been found wanting. Zverev’s best Grand Slam result is a fourth-round showing at last year’s Wimbledon. Although he already has 6 titles in his short career, it is clear that the grueling Grand Slam schedule is something that the younger generation has struggled with.
We could go on profiling young players with the likes of Denis Shapovalov and Chung Hyeon but you end up repeating the same things. All of them have the game to potentially challenge for Grand Slam victories but none of them have yet demonstrated the iron man abilities of the big 4 to be at the thick end of grand slams every time they compete.
When the big four have vacated through injury, the finals, semi-final and quarter-final spots have invariably been taken by a not so younger generation, the likes of Cilic, Del Potro, Berdych, and Wawrinka. Perhaps grand slams require an extra level of maturity and experience that can only be gained with time. Only time will tell for the truly young generation.
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