As the dust settles from the French Open and Wimbledon looms large on the horizon, Boris Becker has this week aired what must of us were thinking when he said that he worries where the big stars and their characters will come from when and if Roger Federer and/or Rafael Nadal decide to call time on their careers.
We don’t know when that will be, but Becker’s comments will have whipped-up the stars on the fringes of glory at the very least. Maybe it wasn’t wise of Novak Djokovic’s coach to say such things so close to an imminent title defence, who knows!
He is right though, characters are not shining through in such a pressured environment. You need to be a great player for that to happen though. The likes of Kei Nishikori, Milios Raonic and even Nick Kyrgios need to turn potential into consistency before they can be considered greats; none have been able to do so thus far.
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Nishikori was a nearly-man at the US Open last season, Raonic has showed glimpses of power and you wonder exactly how good Kyrgios is after you remove all the petulance and poor attitude. None of the have done enough to ensure that they could be a big-hitter.
So yes, Becker is right, the youngsters need to rise to the plate and we need their personalities, but it isn’t easy while Federer and Nadal – regardless of a potential decline for either – remain active among the traditional ‘big four’. Attention will always go to them first because of their draw and quality.
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A lot of talk this year will be that Andy Murray, after his Queens title, could well win his second Wimbledon title in two years.
He may well be known as one of the best grass-court players, but he cannot rule out Federer. The Swiss legend, while Murray was winning Queens, did what he usually does in Halle, Germany and that was to warm-up for Wimbledon in style. Halle and Queens run at the same time and while Murray impresses in London with a haul of eight title, Federer boasts eight on the continent.
The 33-year-old will be buoyed on by his defeat in the final 12 months ago as he continues to hunt down Grand Slam number 18, as time goes on his determination must get greater. Another who hasn’t experienced success for a while is Rafael Nadal.
The Spaniard, a 14-time Grand Slam winner, continues to struggle with lots of aspects of his game. Again though, you cannot discount him. If anything we know that Nadal can perform at Wimbeldon, his campaigns on the way to two titles and other finals have produced some of the most eye-catching moments in tennis history; a great man like Federer would testify.
Novak Djokovic too; the world no.1 has dropped off the radar slightly since his shock loss at the Roland Garros final. The last I read of him, he was in Marbella. Don’t expect the Serb, however, to descending into an alcohol-infused party-boy in Spain though – he’ll be more determined than ever to eradicate those demons from Paris.
It will take time
It’s all very well Becker saying that tennis needs some new stars for once Federer and Nadal leave the scene, but it will be a gradual process and it will take some time for somebody to shine through.
The youngsters mentioned in this article in another era may well have already won a few Grand Slam titles, but the brilliance of the ‘big four’ make it so tough for them to make their mark.
Rather than looking around the corner, maybe the sport should just appreciate this golden era of amazingly good players while they all still share a court. There will always be Grand Slam winners as long as we have a sport…