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Friday, May 27, 2022

Tennis: The Next Next Generation is here

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No, no, no, Rafael Nadal, 35, said after the Indian Wells final: “This is not the time to talk about it.” After 3: 6, 6: 7 (5) against Taylor Fritz, his first loss this year, he was asked about chest pains. It had been a grueling week of tennis for him, Nadal had needed three sets each en route to the final against Sebastian Korda (USA), Nick Kyrgios (Australian) and fellow Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz and he was also out of the British Daniel Evans and Reilly. Opelka highly demanded by USA. According to his own information, he still hadn’t found the time to check out the injury. “No, no, no,” he said, “we don’t need to talk about me now. That’s all.” be tournament, played great matches and a very good final”.

He, this is Taylor Fritz (USA) 24 years old. He too had played with the pain. In the semi-final against Andrei Rublev (Russia), he injured his right ankle; he had to stop training the next morning. “Worst pain of my life. I almost cried because I thought that was it,” Fritz said after his first career Masters title: “Some people on my team wanted me not to play, I’ll raise them forever.”

Often it is old Nadal who ultimately wins such a competition for the handicapped. He now he was young Fritz. Although one would realize who was missing this last weekend in the California desert: the stars of the call Next Generation, the next generation behind the trio of Nadal, Nowak Djokovic and Roger Federer. Russian Daniil Medvedev, 26, had lost to Gaël Monfils (France) and thus regained the lead in the world ranking. Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, 23, and German Alexander Zverev, 24, were beaten early by young Americans Jenson Brooksby, 21, and Tommy Paul, 24, while Italian Matteo Berrettini, 25, lost in round of 16 against the 22-year-old. Miomir Kecmanovic (Serbia).

It wasn’t the next generation, it was the next next generation, who was successful in Indian Wells: even if you have to take into account that Fritz is only six months younger than Zverev, but that’s the important thing, he joined the circle of contenders later. The lines between generations have blurred, but one thing is for sure: it now takes more than two hands to count all the players who can win major tournaments. This leads to an extremely interesting constellation in men’s tennis.

Tennis: The boundaries between generations are blurring: Players like Taylor Fritz are no longer far behind established players like Novak Djokovic.

The lines between generations are blurring: players like Taylor Fritz are not far behind established players like Novak Djokovic.

(Photo: Matthew Stockman/AFP)

Perhaps one should remember what Zverev said six months ago at the US Open about the so-called big three said Federer, 40, Nadal, 35 and Djokovic, 34: “We all want them to play forever, but at some point they have to stop.” Well, at least Nadal is still there, he is the favorite again at the French Open very soon. Djokovic was not present in Indian Wells because he was not allowed to enter the US without a corona vaccination. He is the youngest of the Big Three and will continue to be the favorite and the feared when he competes. Federer, on the other hand, has long struggled with burnout and injury.

However, the question now is whether Zverev’s conclusion from last year is still correct: “The rivalry of the youngest, that is, Medvedev, Tsitsipas, Rublew, Berrettini and myself, leads to great duels. Semi-finals and finals in tournaments It should be exciting. I don’t think any of us will win 20 Grand Slam titles. We can split it between us.”

But it’s also possible that Alexander Zverev won’t win a single Grand Slam tournament in his career; not only because of the crisis of form in which he is currently, in his eighth year on the professional circuit. The fact is that there are no longer only “the youngest”, but also the somewhat younger, that is: Casper Ruud (Norway, 23), Sinner (Italy, 20), Felix Auger-Aliassime (Canada, 20), Alcaraz (Spain, 20) and Fritz – the next next generation.

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