21 April 2019 01:46 AM

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PARTAB RAMCHAND | 28 JANUARY, 2019

Younger Brigade Yet to Catch Up With Superstars

Big Three of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are still holding on to the top spots


The younger brigade is still playing catch up with the superstars. They have been challenging fairly strongly over the last couple of years but have not been able to really take over and as the Australian Open confirmed the Big Three of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are still holding on to the top spots. Okay, so Federer went down to Stefanos Sitsipas in the fourth round but he still lost to the leader of the GenNext of players and the final was still contested by the No 1 Djokovic and No 2 Nadal.

The manner in which Djokovic and Nadal demolished Lucas Poullie and Tsitsipas in the semifinals showed that the old guard is still holding their own despite several young contenders. Sure, the Big Four is now the Big Three with the imminent retirement of Andy Murray but one can never write off Federer even in his 38th year while it can be taken for granted that Djokovic (31) and Nadal a year older will continue to occupy the top slots during the year.

Both players have had to endure a difficult 2018 thanks to injuries and even surgeries but that has not stopped them from staging a successful comeback. This was Djokovic’s third successive Grand Slam triumph after Wimbledon and US Open in 2018 but Nadal who won the French Open last year is snapping at his heels his straight sets defeat in the final on Sunday notwithstanding.

Djokovic and Nadal – not to forget Federer – can be expected to dominate for another year at least. Really it is quite mind boggling to know that the three between them have won a total of 52 Grand Slam singles titles the first of them being notched up by Federer way back in 2003. This despite the fact that there are fresh challengers every year making their way up the rankings. Over the last couple of years Tsitsipas, Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev and Kevin Anderson have provided enough evidence that they could be the stars of the future while Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic, Juan Martin del Potro and Marin Cilic have been around for some time putting in creditable performances, making a Grand Slam final and being in the top ten consistently. But when it comes to winning Grand Slams and taking the top three places in the ATP rankings it is still Djokovic, Nadal and Federer. Of course in the latest rankings Federer has slipped to No 6 following his defeat to Tsitsipas. That’s what the top players have to guard aganst for one bad defeat could you push down several places. On the other hand Pouille jumped 14 places from 31 to 17 following a surprise semifinal appearance at the Australian Open.

If anything the field is even more open in the womens event. With Serena Williams’ fortunes finally on the downslide the opportunity is really there for the next generation to stake their claim to reach the pedestal and symbolizing this is the crowning of the new world No 1 when the latest WTA rankings were released on Monday. Naomi Osaka took over at the top for the first time following her victory over Petra Kvitova in the Australian Open final on Saturday. The interesting point to note is that had Kvitova had won she would have been crowned the new world No 1. That’s the kind of competition currently on in the women’s section and any one of half a dozen players is capable of winning a Grand Slam or taking over at the top.

At the moment however it is Osaka’s moment to savour following her second successive Grand Slam triumph after she won the US Open last year. But she will have to be on her toes if she wants an extended run at the top. Simona Halep, the women Osaka dethroned, Angelique Kerber, Caroline Wozniacki, Sloane Stephens, Elina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova besides Kvitova are all bunched together in the rankings and some of them are already Grand Slam winners. The tussle for top honours is bound to be extremely keen during 2019.
 

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