Over the last decade or so men’s tennis has seen some ferocious rivalries at the top. These rivalries have, however, featured the same players over and over again. Since 2010 only 6 men have won a grand slam tournament – and they are all tour veterans (and were when they won). In fact, 3 out of the 4 most successful male players in the open era are currently active!
In the past we have seen individual players dominate tennis, but nothing like what has happened with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Between them these three hold the open era records for most wins at every grand slam event.
Federer and Djokovic share the Australian Open record with 6 each, Federer holds Wimbledon with 8, Nadal has an astonishing 10 French Opens and Federer shares the US record with Pete Sampras and Jimmy Connors with 5 – although he could go higher.
In the 2000’s there were 15 different men’s tennis grand slam winners. In the 90’s there were 16. The current concentration of titles is unprecedented. A part of the problem is that since Nadal first won the French Open in 2005 at the age of 19 there hasn’t been a new young superstar come through. Djokovic won his first slam at 20 in 2008, but then failed to gain another until 2011.
The other winners this decade have all been tennis veterans. Andy Murray was 25 when he won his first title in 2013. Stanislas Wawrinka won his first in 2014, at 28. Marin Cilic won the US open in 2014 at the age of 26.
There have been a number of promising young players come through the men’s ranks in the past 8 years, but none have managed to break into the top level. Canadian power player Milos Raonic seemed likely to for a while, but he never developed his rally game enough to beat the best.
Bernard Tomic also seemed promising for a while, however a lack of effort caused him to waste his potential. Fellow Australian Nick Kyrgios has proven that he is good enough to beat anybody on his day. Unfortunately he is yet to achieve the consistency he needs to win a slam.
German wunderkind Alexander Zverev looks the most likely to force his way to the top at the moment. So far, however, he has not been able to topple the tennis greats he is forced to compete with.
With Djokovic and Nadal struggling with injury, the Australian Open this year seemed to be a perfect opportunity for the young players to come through. Unfortunately for them, the ageless Federer was still there. It may not be until time finally catches him that we see some fresh faces finally winning their first major tennis title.