Forget the NextGen, the OlderGen are the ones challenging Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal

ATP Tour
Kevin Anderson walks off after Wimbledon epic against John Isner

Will someone from the NextGen step up and end the Big Five’s Grand Slam monopoly? It’s a question that is asked at the start of every major.

Yet more often than not come the second week of a Grand Slam the “future of tennis” is found wanting, usually on a flight back home after another early exit.

Instead it’s the “OlderGen” who are putting up a fight against Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in the majors.

Novak Djokovic and Kevin Anderson after their Wimbledon final

It begs the question, why are tennis fans so desperate to see a young star, preferably someone under the age of 21, win a major?

In fact, it’s not just limited to tennis as sports lovers in general romanticise the idea of a young up and coming player lifting a trophy at international level. See France striker Kylian Mpabbe at the recent Fifa World Cup.

Why do we often belittle the Grand Slam achievements of the mature player, the late bloomer, the experienced competitor, the battle-scarred professional who has paid his or her dues?

Yet in tennis it is that same mature player/late bloomer/experienced competitor/battled-scarred professional who is taking the fight to the current Big Three of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic.

At Wimbledon, the four semi-finalists were all over 30 with eventual winner Djokovic the youngest at 31. Finalist Kevin Anderson was 32 and semi-finalists John Isner 33.

John Isner celebrates

The quarter-finals also featured Milos Raonic (27), Kei Nishikori (28) and Juan Martin del Potro (29).

In the last five years, only six non-Big Five players have made it to the final of a Grand Slam. They are: Marin Cilic (3), Anderson (2), Dominic Thiem, Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori and David Ferrer.

On that list only Thiem (at the 2018 French Open) and Nishikori (at the 2009 US Open) were under 25 when they reached the final.

Meanwhile, the NextGen stars like Alexander Zverev, Nick Kyrgios, Denis Shapavolov, Karen Khachanov and Frances Tiafoe are often touted as pretenders to the throne, but they usually fall short when it comes to the business end of the majors.

They no doubt have the talent to eventually take over the baton from the Big Five, but maybe we should give them time to make mistakes, develop and “earn their stripes”.

Alexander-Zverev disappointed at French Open

Italian player Fabio Fognini was a bit a harsher in his criticism of the preferential treatment that the NextGen stars enjoy.

“This Next Generation thing is bulls***, I don’t like all this attention,” he said.

He added: “I don’t agree with all this attention given to these young players.

“I hope they will play well, Shapovalov will surely be among the top five in the world. If someone plays well he is going to get attention anyway and can do like Nadal.”

He is right, we shouldn’t be hunkering after the next teenage superstar and instead we should give the likes of Anderson and Cilic a bit more respect as they deserve it.

For they are the ones who are stepping up in the Grand Slams, the NextGen’s time will come.

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