PARTAB RAMCHAND | 19 JUNE, 2019
Tsitsipas Eager for Change of Guard at Wimbledon
”I would love to see something different this year”
As the tennis caravan rolls on to the grass courts of England the focus will continue to be on the Big Three of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Yes, even Nadal for besides his 12 titles at Roland Garros, the athletic and fiercely competitive Spaniard has also won two Wimbledon titles.
Those days are gone when a great champion could win at the French Open but could not repeat the feat at Wimbledon with the surfaces being so different. It was also the other way around. All time greats like Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Pete Sampras, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors who won several Wimbledon titles between them never won the French Open. Other all time greats of a similar period – the 80s and 90s – won the French Open several times but came a cropper at Wimbledon among them Ivan Lendl, Mats Wilander and Jim Courier.
Before the current trio who have won all four titles between them it was the peerless Swede Bjorn Borg who proved his versatility in the 70s and early 80s by winning six French Open titles and five consecutive Wimbledon titles. About the only exception in the 90s was Andre Agassi with the flamboyant American winning all the four titles.
But in the new millennium since the dominance of the Big Three started with Federer winning the first of his Wimbledon titles in 2003 he, Djokovic and Nadal have performed the feat of winning all the four Grand Slams though not in the same year as Rod Laver did in 1962 and again in 1969. It’s really quite amazing to think that for the last 16 years the Big Three along with Andy Murray have totally dominated at Wimbledon. Federer has won the title eight times, Nadal and Murray twice each and Djokovic the defending champion four times.
And while all this speaks volumes of the skill and durability of these players it is also a reflection on the younger players who have not been able to challenge them at Grand Slams even as they have been winning ATP Tour events. The best of the current lot are the trio of Alexander Zverev, Stephanos Tsitsipas and Dominic Thiem who for the last two years has finished runner-up to Nadal at Roland Garros. Thiem currently ranked No 4 is however more comfortable on clay and so it would appear that the fifth ranked Zverev who won the year ending Masters in November last and Tsitsipas, ranked No 6 who have the better chance of toppling the Big Three.
In fact the 20-year-old Greek seems pretty anxious to break the monopoly going by his recent statements. Tsitsipas has spoken of it being a time for change of guard at Wimbledon and has spoken of himself and Zverev as being potential champions at the all England club next month. He said he hoped there would be a new name on the trophy with Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt in 2002 being the last man outside the Big Four to triumph at Wimbledon.
A few days ago Tsitsipas said ``I want to be honest. I would love to see something different this year and hopefully it will be me. It would give a little bit of variety, something different to these guys. We are responsible as the new generation to work hard, to come up with something new and play our best to beat those guys.’’ A bit brash perhaps but at least he cannot be accused of not being ambitious.