For the past 5 years, people have been hearing about this next generation (NextGen) of players, the generation that was hailed to be the conquerer of the Big 4 in tennis. The talks began with the likes of Kei Nishikori, Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic but have now moved to focus on Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev and Nick Kyrgios. But week in and week out, the top guns have proved how far ahead of time these talks have been.
Tennis has not been deprived of talents with incredible potential. Jo Wilfried Tsonga reached his first slam final in 2008, losing to Novak Djokovic, but has he ever been a contender to win a major since then? Probably not. Tomas Berdych sent shock waves across the world by knocking out Roger Federer at Wimbledon and he can bring that form any day on to the court, but those days are as rare as Andy Murray playing out a match without cussing. These rare flashes of brilliance have made people believe that these players can challenge for the majors, but winning majors need more than just flashes of brilliance.
The pool of players we are talking about have been way too inconsistent to even bother the Big 4. Will Murray be more worried about facing Rafa Nadal or Nick Kyrgios? You might argue that Kyrgios will be a tougher opponent for Murray, but as long as these guys are not in the head of these champions, a Swiss will beat them in straight sets, a Serb would teach them how it’s done in a major and a Spaniard will make them question their level of fitness in a marathon!
The NextGen have been a bit unlucky too. Just spare a thought for them to have been playing in an era of three greatest players of all time, a knighted Scot and the top ranked Swiss. But having said that, this generation of players need to step up in clutch matches, like Zverev should have against Rafa in Melbourne. It won’t be easy, winning a major, never is. Ask Roger Federer.
Will 2017 be the year we finally witness a new Grand Slam champion? Is Dimitrov’s semi-final run at Austalian Open an indication that this just might be the year that witnesses the likes of Zverev and Thiem make the business end of the tournaments consistently and eventually end up winning a Masters or a major? This year certainly is the best chance in recent history for them. With Novak Djokovic no longer his unbeatable self and with Roger and Rafa still vulnerable and prone to defeats, the tournaments are more open than ever. Though not a young blood anymore, Dimitrov has looked impressive and more focused this year than even before and he is likely the front runner amongst the players looking for their maiden Grand Slam. The approaching Masters are a wonderful stage for them to hit a big blow and set up exciting prospects for the remaining year.
It’s seldom you’re given a match on a platter, you have to work for it. And with the big guns not yet ready to let go, the NextGen needs to produce a level of tennis that can withstand for fourteen days, which they have failed to do so. There’s a brief period of time where they attract eyeballs, Bernard Tomic did it for a few days, Kyrgios does it- more ‘cause of his off court activities- but he too, will be another piece replaced by someone else if he fails to get his head straight and nurture that immense talent he possesses. A new favorite in town, Alexander Zverev Jr. would not only need to sharpen his skills in training- for he’d have cursed himself for missing those volleys against Rafa- but would also need to be very careful in planning his schedule to be free from injuries.
With an unexpected major winner in Melbourne, tennis will surely welcome another surprise if it were to happen at Miami,Paris or London. It’ll not only be good for the game but would also give people something to look forward to once it’s all done and dusted, once the Big 4 are finally done, for good.