Tennis

John McEnroe fears for tennis' future

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We have reached the closing stages of the French Open and three of tennis' 'big four' reached the quarter-finals, but former player John McEnroe worries about where the next star of the sport will come from.

Between Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, there are an astonishing 38 Grand Slam singles titles. No wonder they call this a golden age for the sport.

At Roland Garros this year only Federer - who leads the all-time charts with 17 triumphs - didn't reach the last eight.

The 32-year-old Swiss star may be the first to call it a day but Nadal, 28, Murray, 27, and Djokovic, 27, aren't all that far away from surpassing their best years. 

However, while the 'big four' continue to dominate on-court, McEnroe believes it will be tough for the next star to emerge.

“I think the next guy who’s going to win multiple majors is going to be a guy we don’t expect, who we don’t know yet,” said the retired American to the Telegraph.

“I’m trying to find out who that guy is, but it’s been so difficult for those mid-20s guys to make progress.

"Whether you’re talking about [Milos] Raonic or [Grigor] Dimitrov – and they’re the two most obvious – it’s going to be difficult for them, at their age, to make that breakthrough where you’re dominating.

“Maybe they can win occasional majors, because for the first time I believe they’re thinking it’s possible. But there’s this respect they have for the older guys, the fear factor. They’ve been beaten up a little bit, maybe too much. You need someone who can look at Nadal and [Roger] Federer and [Novak] Djokovic and say ‘They are at the end of their career, more or less, and I could do something against them’.”

The examples of fellow 23-year-olds Milos Raonic and Grigor Dmitrov tell a story as both flirt with a permanent place among the world's top ten.

Neither have ever reached a semi-final of a major, let alone win one. In fact, both have reached the last eight at events for the first time this year. Raonic was easily brushed aside by world no.2 Djokovic yesterday, and Dmitrov was felled by Nadal in Australia.

When you look at the current crop of legends in the making, they all - with the exception of Murray - had opened their Grand Slam accounts well before the age of 23. 

McEnroe himself had to emerge from the shadows of Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors before he could launch a five-year assault of the US Open and Wimbledon in which he bagged 7 Grand Slam titles.

The 55-year-old then found out for himself the difficulties of having to deal with new stars when the likes of Boris Becker and Ivan Lendl entered the frame.

He points out that it could be a few more years before the next champions are knocking on the doors of Murray, Djokovic and Nadal.

“Ideally, the person I’m talking about will probably want to be breaking through in 2016," he continued.

"Presumably we’ll still have Djokovic and Murray for another couple of years, and even though we always worry about Nadal, we hope to have a little bit more of him as well.

"But you probably won’t have Federer, because he’ll be close to 35.”

With Djokovic already assured of a last-four clash at Roland Garros with surprise-package Ernests Gulbis, it leaves the remaining spots to be fought over today.

Defending champion and eight time 'King of Clay' Nadal faces a tricky-looking tie with experienced Spanish compatriot David Ferrer. Meanwhile British no.1 Murray hopes to reach only his second semi in Paris, but local favourite Gael Monfils stands in his way.

Murray's success thus far on the French dirt comes as a particular surprise considering he remains without a coach and was in a poor spell of form coming into his least favoured Slam.

McEnroe's name continues to be linked with the world no.8's vacant coaching position with a decision set to be made before Wimbledon late this month.

However, the inventor of the on-court 'you can't be serious' shout - or rant - remains unsure over whether he'll be the man to replace former rival Ivan Lendl.

“I haven’t talked to Andy,” he said. “He would have to speak to me and say he would want me to do it and somehow I don’t see that happening.”

The Wimbledon winner will certainly hope that whoever steps unto the breach can help reverse his slide down the rankings and ignite a more creditable charge to defend his SW19 crown.

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Topics:
Tennis
Wimbledon
French Open

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