Tennis stars of tomorrow: Featuring Carlos Alcaraz, Holger Rune, Coco Gauff, Emma Raducanu
The 2023 tennis is up and running and it was a familiar story in Melbourne as Novak Djokovic won a 10th title to take his Grand Slam tally to 2023, but tennis appears to be at a unique generational crossroads.
Annabelle Spiers wonders if this will finally be the year that the familiar dominance by the stars of the Open Era is ended by a new generation of talent.
For most of the twenty-first-century tennis has been treated to a handful of players that have both dominated and defined the game. This era of tennis has been hailed as the golden age with the distinct personalities and playing styles of those at the very top of their game resulting in spectacular on-court showdowns.
The Big Three of Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the men’s game and Serena Williams in the women’s have defined the sport, but we seem to be in the midst of a new era of exciting action on the world stage as players battle to fill the shoes of their giants of the game.
Despite dominating tennis for nearly two decades, all reigns must come to an end. With big names such as Federer and Williams announcing their retirements and ending their legendary and illustrious careers, an era of comforting certainty is over.
These legends of the sport will undoubtedly be missed, but it begs the question: what does tennis look like without these sport-defining players?
Even those such as Nadal still chasing titles are not immune to the symptoms of age. Despite winning two Grand Slams last year the Spaniard has been plagued by injury. Having to undergo anaesthetic injections to battle a chronic foot injury does not seem to be a sustainable option for the athlete: those with youth on their side will hope to exploit this to prevent the 36-year-old from securing his 23rd Grand Slam title.
Of course, these legends aren’t going anywhere quietly. Djokovic remains the man to beat as he proved during his title run at the Australian Open. The Serb is, however, also in the twilight of his career and the certainty of his game has gone, he is no longer invulnerable, and any young upstart will be hungry to prove themself against him.
It’s an exciting time to be an up-and-coming tennis player as a new season comes with the possibility for the stars of tomorrow to cement their status as legends. So, who are the players leading this new era of the game?
The 19-year-old teenage phenomenon is the youngest year-end men’s No 1 and won the US Open last year.
The Spanish youngster rose to fame after beating big names Djokovic, Nadal, and Alexander Zverev to win the Madrid Open at just 18 years old and is considered tennis’ ‘next big thing’. Despite missing the Australian Open due to injury, keep an eye on the young gun as he is undoubtedly one to watch.
Next in line to take the baton from the Big Three is Norwegian Ruud. He achieved maiden major finals appearance at the French and US Open last year, battling with Alcaraz in a US Open final that was reminiscent of the legendary Nadal-Federer battles of years gone by.
The 24-year-old has proved his mettle on the hard courts and will certainly be one to watch, it would be a mistake to underestimate him.
Chasing down his first Grand Slam final is 21-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner. Noted for his excellent topspin and powerful two-handed backhand, Sinner has caught the eye of John McEnroe who boldly stated: “He’s one of the most talented kids I’ve seen in 10 years.”
He has already demonstrated his mental toughness in last year’s US Open quarter-final, battling with Alcaraz in a match that lasted five hours and 15 minutes; one of the best Grand Slam matches of the season.
A big personality and fan favourite, Rune has rocketed his way up the ATP Rankings and into the top 10. He has proven his worth against the likes of Denis Shapovalov and Stefanos Tsitsipas in his run to the French Open quarter-finals last year. Despite some hot-blooded moments, Rune has confidence and self-assurance on his side and is an exciting prospect.
The Pole completed an astounding season in 2022 and is the current women’s No 1, solidifying her spot as the leader of a new generation of female tennis players. She has put an end to the carousel of names battling for the top spot and at only 21 will undoubtably go on to retain her dominance. Having won at Roland Garros twice and the US Open in 2022 the Polish star is a formidable rival and certainly one to watch.
At only 18 years old American star Gauff is one of the youngest yet most successful players on the WTA Tour. She appeared on the map after beating Venus Williams in the first round at Wimbledon in 2019 aged only 15 and the youngest player in its history to qualify for the main draw.
The American has played her way to the top with an aggressive and powerful playing style that rewarded her with a place in the final of the French Open last year. If she continues on this course then it looks like Gauff will break more records.
Blasting onto the scene with a now famous win at the 2021 US Open, Raducanu has earned a spot amongst the rising stars of this new era. Raducanu has spent much of her young career under the glare of the media spotlight which comes with its fair share of critics and pressure.
Injury has prevented the Brit from any major wins since her Grand Slam shock. If she can avoid further injury and get a stable team around her then more Grand Slams will likely be on the horizon.
The days of certainty are behind us. This could be exactly what the sport needs, a new cast of characters for fans to get behind. The new generation has huge shoes to fill but it will certainly make for exciting tennis as fans gather to watch them try.
Follow Annabelle Spiers on Twitter @annabelleSpier1
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