Updated: February 23, 2021 9:04:57 am
During the Australian Open trophy ceremony, a quip from perennial champion Novak Djokovic to runner-up Daniil Medvedev, summed up the state of men’s tennis. “It’s a matter of time when you’re going to hold a Grand Slam… if you don’t mind waiting a few more years.” Everybody laughed; Medvedev’s guffaw was the first to disappear. The joke was on the younger stars who have spectacularly failed to stop the domination of the tennis Big 3. Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have reduced the global tennis narrative to the Grand Slam race between them.
It’s not that the young aren’t good enough. They are alright. Great, even. Medvedev, Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas. All fighting either to restore tennis glory to their nation or put it on the sport’s map. All bringing freshness in terms of skills and style. But it turns out, when three contemporary GOATs are in no mood to leave the court, these highly talented youngsters are probably born in the wrong era. Winning a Grand Slam for the next generation is not just a question of when, but where. In France, the phantom Nadal leaves all ambitions buried in the red soil. On London’s grass, Federer doesn’t let dreams sprout. The grand old man doing his best Gandalf from Lord of the Rings — he might not win but he won’t let them pass.
And if Federer and Nadal don’t get you, Djokovic will. Unlike his older nemeses, Djokovic doesn’t have to pick and choose his favourite haunt. He puts the hard in hardcourt, but is a contender on all surfaces. He’s 33, but in the middle of what seems like an everlasting prime. Sliding and stretching, reaching every ball, the Serb has only grown more formidable with an unprecedented number of aces flying off his racquet. There is, however, hope for those desiring change. Unlike the musical chairs in the women’s field, the men’s line-up of faces in the second week of a Grand Slam is getting familiar. One of them might become the next face, soon.
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