Are we on the verge of a big shake up in the world of tennis?
For over a decade, men’s tennis has been eclipsed by four names: Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. This is a tennis era when the vast majority of pro players have been forced to simply sit back and watch as this tiny elite command the entire sport.
There’s no doubt this is most dominant group of players to ever lay hands on a racket. Since February 2002, the ATP number 1 ranking hasn’t been reached by anyone else.
Federer, Nadal and Djokovic all boast monumental win rates of over 80% (with Murray coming in with a mere 78%…). The four players have almost 3,500 singles wins between them, with a total of 51 Grand Slam and 285 overall career titles. Crazy numbers!
But with the youngest of the fantastic four (Djokovic) turning 31 this year, and recent blips in form across the board, there are questions around how much longer the reign of supremacy can last.
It’s time to look forwards—to the players most likely to replace the fantastic four at the top. For the next generation of fresh-faced prodigies, this is the best chance to dethrone these masters of the game since Federer won his first major, Wimbledon, back in 2003.
So who are these up and comers and what can we expect from them?
Widely heralded as a future World Number 1, German right-hander Zverev is leading the charge. At the time of writing, the 21 year-old sits at a heady third place in the world in the ATP World Rankings.
Gifted with a stature of 6-foot-6, Zverev’s style accommodates grace, agility and strength, making him a formidable opponent for anyone (and he’s already beaten Federer).
Zverev will be looking to build on his six tour wins last year with another strong campaign. But with so much hype surrounding the youngster, coach and father Alexander Sr.’s priority has to be keeping his son’s head in the game and feet on the ground.
[WATCH] Alexander Zverev beat Novak Djokovic to win first Masters 1000 title in 2017…
Dominic Thiem is another name that’s been doing the rounds for a while now. The Austrian reached number 4 in the world towards the back end of last year and already has a hefty 9 career titles to his name.
You can’t help but feel the best is still to come from Thiem. This is the player with a 75% win rate at the French Open, a tournament where he’s reached the Semi Final the last two years consecutively (only to be knocked out by Djokovic and Nadal respectively).
The 24-year old started the year strong by reaching the semi final in Qatar before taking victory at the Argentina Open in February, and he’ll be hoping to take that form into Roland Garros and beyond. Watch this space.
[WATCH] Dominic Thiem backhand compilation vs Andrey Rublev at the 2018 Monte-Carlo Masters
One of the most talked about players in 2018 so far, Chung Hyeon became the first Korean player to reach a Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open in January. And with over 100 professional matches under his belt already, the 22-year old is already making history.
Hyeon was crowned undefeated champion at the last Next Generation ATP Finals in Milan, and is now a regular in the top 20. He is a hard court specialist, having spent much of his junior career picking up titles on Plexi surfaces.
If Hyeon wants to reach the next level in his career, he’ll need to diversify his game. For now, he’s just making the most of being injury-free after a long stint on the physios table a couple years ago.
[WATCH] Hyeon Chung vs Novak Djokovic match highlights at the Australian Open 2018
Borna is an exciting prospect.
Winner of the 2014 ATP Star of Tomorrow Award in 2014, Borna’s play has developed at a breakneck pace over the past couple of years, earning him comparisons with Djokovic—who himself celebrated Coric’s unmistakable “fighting spirit”.
On court, Ćorić is a crowd pleaser. The defensive baseliner excels during long rallies, showing exceptional movement and footwork. The young Croatian is yet to progress further than the 3rd round at Grand Slam level, but we’re expecting more this year after his impressive semi final finish at Indian Wells in March.
[WATCH] Coric vs Shapovalov: Epic Rallies at the Miami Open 2018
Kyrgios defeated Federer, Djokovic and Nadal at the first time of asking. If that doesn’t get your attention, we’re not sure what will. The Australian number one has also beaten rival Alexander Zverev three times since 2017.
Few would disagree that he’s got something special in his locker.
The 23-year old from Canberra already has four career titles to his name, and has reached two Grand Slam quarter finals (Wimbledon 2014 and Australian Open 2015)—invaluable experience for a player so young.
Kyrgios often shows flair and arrogance on court, backed up with massive serves and powerful forehand. The one thing holding him back from true greatness is his hot and cold attitude.
[WATCH] Nick Kyrgios v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga match highlights at the Australian Open 2018
The resurgence of Federer and Nadal may have put a halt on there being a brand new world number one for now. However, at 36 and 31 you have to question just how long they can maintain their current standards. And with Djokovic and Murray fighting injury and poor form, tennis fans are expecting big changes over the coming seasons.
In the meantime, it’s up to starlets like Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev to live up to the hype, mature as players, and fulfil their potential.
Want more like this? Read: The science behind a high-impact tennis technique