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Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in decline? See @Nick Kyrgios and the ATP’s #NextGen

Shanghai: To Rafael Nadal, it is “the normal thing that should happen, must happen, and finally happened”. It is what tennis has been waiting for, but missing. It is the emergence of an emerging, impatient and sometimes combustible new generation capable of succeeding some of the ageing, ailing masters in what has been a truly golden era for the men’s game.
Nanjing Night Net

The official campaign launch was in March, with Australian Nick Kyrgios and Croatian Borna Coric front and centre in the ATP’s 2016 “Next Generation” marketing campaign for the 21-and-unders. Others in the brooding #NextGen cast included new top 20 teen Alexander Zverev, of Germany, and Thanasi Kokkinakis, of Adelaide.

Remember the “New Balls Please” version from back in 2001? In the dying days of the Sampras/Agassi era? Star graduates Roger Federer, Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Roddick, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Gustavo Kuerten and Marat Safin went on to win a combined 26 major singles titles, 17 of them to the somehow-still-not-retired-marvel that is Federer.

What will this group achieve, and how long will it take?

“I think there is a big group of the next generation, that’s for sure. But it’s been a little time now that they’re here,” says US Open champion Stan Wawrinka, an elder statesman at 31. “They already trying to be at the top. A few are already in the top 20.

“It’s interesting to see a new player, a new game to play against. For sure I watch, always watch, always try to watch all the player(s). I lost against Zverev in St. Petersburg. He won his first title there. He was always playing really well. It’s going to be interesting to see what’s happening with all those players.”

In the first week since 2003 in which neither Nadal nor Federer featured in the rankings top four, the Shanghai  glimpse into the tennis future provided a mixed view. Kyrgios? Good, bad and ugly, all in the space of two rounds. Enough said. Zverev went the furthest, while leaving a trail of graphite splinters as mangled-racquet reminders of his inability to close out a match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga he led 4-2 in the third set.

The 19-year-old American Taylor Fritz was all upside, though, coming through qualifying to beat Frenchman Stephane Robert. Not here quite yet are the likes of Russian Karen Khachanov, but he soon will be, while the likes of Kyle Edmund (Britain), Frances Tiafoe (US) and Asian pair Yoshihito Nishioka (Japan) and Hyeon Chung (South Korea) add to a diverse and highly promising group.

“We have been playing on the tour a lot of years without new generation that we have today,” says Nadal, approvingly. “Is true that there is a new generation of very young players that they are so good.”

So what of the old BIg Four: Roger, Rafa, Novak, Andy? Are reports of their demise premature? Djokovic, 29, says the term was invented by “media and people around the tennis world”. He understands why, though, because of the dominance they quartet has shared.

“But, you know, Stan Wawrinka is somebody that went under the radar and he won three grand slams, so you cannot rule him out. (Marin) Cilic won a grand slam and (Juan Martin) Del Potro, too. Those are the players that deserve always to be mentioned as the best players in the world,” says the world No.1.

“Now you have the new wave of tennis players, a new generation is coming up, already established top 10 players, Nishikori and Raonic, that played grand slam finals themselves and won some big tournaments. And then you have Kyrgios and Coric, these kind of players that are young and motivated to show to the world that they can compete on the highest level.”

That time is coming. #NextGen. Either here now or arriving soon.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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