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The Future of Tennis
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El Dude Offline
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The Future of Tennis
In lieu of the Dimitrov thread I thought it would be worthwhile to start a different thread on the broader subject of the "future of tennis."

Let me post a possible scenario. If you don't like speculation, might as well stop reading now.

First of all, let's consider two factors:

1) As I showed in a study back at Tennis Digital, the vast majority of elite players take a half-step down around the age of 26-27, and a major step down (or retirement) at the age of 31-32. Rafael Nadal turns 27 this year, Djokovic and Murray 26, and elder statesman Roger Federer turns 32.

2) There are no clear "generational talents" on the verge of breakthrough. The vast majority of all-time greats reached a very high level of play by age 21-22, and no current age 21-22 player is in the top 10.

The two combined lead me to believe that the decline of the Big Four will be slowed by the lack of top young talent, or at least softened. On the other hand, there is the theory that players are taking longer to mature and peak these days, so it could be that the time of full maturation has simply been pushed back a year or two so that we'll see the players currently age 20-22 reaching their peak form at age 22-24. If that's the case, we can soften our expectations a bit but we would still need to see major breakthroughs from players like Raonic and Janowicz (both of whom are 22 and turn 23 later this year) and Dimitrov (21, turning 22 next month) pretty much this season.

Regardless, I would posit the following scenario for the next few years, the "Future of Tennis," which I feel to be the most likely one.

2013 will be the last year of "utter dominance" by the Big Four. We may even start seeing cracks with a few upsets here and there, at least in the case of Roger Federer (Andy Murray is already prone to the occasional upset, as we just saw at Monte Carlo). But by and large, 2013 will still be dominated by the Big Four - especially Djokovic and Nadal.

2014 won't look that different than 2013, but the cracks will be more evident - more upsets, even an increased chance of a Slam going to someone else. We'll start seeing a few young players breaking into the top 10, unseating near-elites and even upsetting the elites.

In 2015 and 2016, when Federer will turn 34-35, Nadal 29-30, and Djokovic and Murray 28-29, we'll see further upsets and even a loss of the top ranking by whoever happens to hold it at that point. These years will be transitional and even a bit chaotic, with the possibility of no clearly dominant player, at least by 2016.

By 2017-18 - four to five years from now, and 2017 being possibly the first Federerless year in almost two decades - we'll know who the next great players - that is, multi-Slam winners and regular #1s - are likely to be. I don't think it is anyone we currently know about, or at least anyone on the radar (top 100). It is likely someone who is still on the junior tour, or at least just starting out - age 18 or younger. I've put forth the name Nick Kyrgios as someone to keep an eye on, but I don't know enough about him - only that he just went pro, won a Challenger event, and turns 18 in a week. He may not become a great player but he's an example of the age group I'm talking about. In 2017 he'll be turning 22 years old and should have arrived at or near his peak form, as will other players that are currently age 16-18.

So who is the future of tennis? If we're talking about post-Big Four, I think we're going to see a group of challengers over the next few years who begin to upset them, with the key names to watch out for being Milos Raonic, Grigor Dimitrov and perhaps Bernard Tomic, but also Janowicz, Dolgopolov, Nishikori, Goffin, etc. We can even throw in Ernests Gulbis as a late-bloomer and hope that he'll at least make the top 20 and be fun to watch for a few years. But if we're talking about the next true elite player we just don't him yet...he's probably not even on tour yet and is likely age 17 or younger.

But again, over the next couple years we're going to see continued dominance of the Big Four (or perhaps Big Three if and when Federer truly begins to fade), and then a transitional period of a couple years in which the Big Four are upset by a group of challengers from "Generation Del Potro" (those currently age 20-24), until the next great player(s) emerge sometime around 2017-2018.

And yes, this is idle speculation. But so what? Tongue
(This post was last modified: 20-Apr-2013 09:25 AM by El Dude.)
20-Apr-2013 09:21 AM
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TsarMatt (07-01-2014)
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RE: The Future of Tennis
(20-Apr-2013 09:21 AM)El Dude Wrote:  In lieu of the Dimitrov thread I thought it would be worthwhile to start a different thread on the broader subject of the "future of tennis."

Let me post a possible scenario. If you don't like speculation, might as well stop reading now.

First of all, let's consider two factors:

1) As I showed in a study back at Tennis Digital, the vast majority of elite players take a half-step down around the age of 26-27, and a major step down (or retirement) at the age of 31-32. Rafael Nadal turns 27 this year, Djokovic and Murray 26, and elder statesman Roger Federer turns 32.

2) There are no clear "generational talents" on the verge of breakthrough. The vast majority of all-time greats reached a very high level of play by age 21-22, and no current age 21-22 player is in the top 10.

The two combined lead me to believe that the decline of the Big Four will be slowed by the lack of top young talent, or at least softened. On the other hand, there is the theory that players are taking longer to mature and peak these days, so it could be that the time of full maturation has simply been pushed back a year or two so that we'll see the players currently age 20-22 reaching their peak form at age 22-24. If that's the case, we can soften our expectations a bit but we would still need to see major breakthroughs from players like Raonic and Janowicz (both of whom are 22 and turn 23 later this year) and Dimitrov (21, turning 22 next month) pretty much this season.

Regardless, I would posit the following scenario for the next few years, the "Future of Tennis," which I feel to be the most likely one.

2013 will be the last year of "utter dominance" by the Big Four. We may even start seeing cracks with a few upsets here and there, at least in the case of Roger Federer (Andy Murray is already prone to the occasional upset, as we just saw at Monte Carlo). But by and large, 2013 will still be dominated by the Big Four - especially Djokovic and Nadal.

2014 won't look that different than 2013, but the cracks will be more evident - more upsets, even an increased chance of a Slam going to someone else. We'll start seeing a few young players breaking into the top 10, unseating near-elites and even upsetting the elites.

In 2015 and 2016, when Federer will turn 34-35, Nadal 29-30, and Djokovic and Murray 28-29, we'll see further upsets and even a loss of the top ranking by whoever happens to hold it at that point. These years will be transitional and even a bit chaotic, with the possibility of no clearly dominant player, at least by 2016.

By 2017-18 - four to five years from now, and 2017 being possibly the first Federerless year in almost two decades - we'll know who the next great players - that is, multi-Slam winners and regular #1s - are likely to be. I don't think it is anyone we currently know about, or at least anyone on the radar (top 100). It is likely someone who is still on the junior tour, or at least just starting out - age 18 or younger. I've put forth the name Nick Kyrgios as someone to keep an eye on, but I don't know enough about him - only that he just went pro, won a Challenger event, and turns 18 in a week. He may not become a great player but he's an example of the age group I'm talking about. In 2017 he'll be turning 22 years old and should have arrived at or near his peak form, as will other players that are currently age 16-18.

So who is the future of tennis? If we're talking about post-Big Four, I think we're going to see a group of challengers over the next few years who begin to upset them, with the key names to watch out for being Milos Raonic, Grigor Dimitrov and perhaps Bernard Tomic, but also Janowicz, Dolgopolov, Nishikori, Goffin, etc. We can even throw in Ernests Gulbis as a late-bloomer and hope that he'll at least make the top 20 and be fun to watch for a few years. But if we're talking about the next true elite player we just don't him yet...he's probably not even on tour yet and is likely age 17 or younger.

But again, over the next couple years we're going to see continued dominance of the Big Four (or perhaps Big Three if and when Federer truly begins to fade), and then a transitional period of a couple years in which the Big Four are upset by a group of challengers from "Generation Del Potro" (those currently age 20-24), until the next great player(s) emerge sometime around 2017-2018.

And yes, this is idle speculation. But so what? Tongue

I guess I'm slightly confused on what you define as the 'future of tennis' - a top 20 player ? a future major winner? a multiple major winner? Dominant #1?
20-Apr-2013 10:33 AM
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El Dude Offline
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RE: The Future of Tennis
I'm using the phrase intentionally vaguely, and with multiple possible meanings - but mainly the sport itself, or at least the ATP. If anything, I'm saying that calling any single player "the future of tennis" is ridiculous, and that we should look at the larger picture.
20-Apr-2013 10:45 AM
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El Dude Offline
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RE: The Future of Tennis
I'm bringing this one back. Some interesting predictions here, including mention of Kyrgios.
01-Jul-2014 02:41 PM
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Riotbeard (10-24-2014)
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RE: The Future of Tennis
You're bragging - but you're right too! Reading that OP again, it's spot on. The cracks are showing: physical wear and tear, the majors taking more out of the Big 4, and slight nosy encroachments by the youngsters.

If Kyrgios display today is truly representative of his talent, then he's going to be a far greater player than any of the other young lads in their early twenties.

But, Wimbledon will stay with the Big 4 - and so will the US Open. It'll take a lot to shift these men, and maybe next year could resemble this...

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01-Jul-2014 02:50 PM
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Riotbeard (07-02-2014)
El Dude Offline
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RE: The Future of Tennis
Alright, this is fun to revisit again - over a year and a half ago, back in April of 2013.

(20-Apr-2013 09:21 AM)El Dude Wrote:  2013 will be the last year of "utter dominance" by the Big Four. We may even start seeing cracks with a few upsets here and there, at least in the case of Roger Federer (Andy Murray is already prone to the occasional upset, as we just saw at Monte Carlo). But by and large, 2013 will still be dominated by the Big Four - especially Djokovic and Nadal.

This seems to be true, considering that the Big Four finished 1, 2, 4, and 6. The Big Four did take all four Slams, the WTF, and all but one Masters, so the dominance was still there - but with Roger's struggles, Andy's injury, and Rafa's Wimbledon upset, the cracks were starting to show.

(20-Apr-2013 09:21 AM)El Dude Wrote:  2014 won't look that different than 2013, but the cracks will be more evident - more upsets, even an increased chance of a Slam going to someone else. We'll start seeing a few young players breaking into the top 10, unseating near-elites and even upsetting the elites.

If anything I under-estimated the cracks considering that only half of the Slams were won by the Big Four, with Wawrinka and Cilic sneaking in, not to mention Tsonga's and Wawrinka's Masters. Roger's revival was unexpected, though, but so also was Andy's (temporary) collapse.

(20-Apr-2013 09:21 AM)El Dude Wrote:  In 2015 and 2016, when Federer will turn 34-35, Nadal 29-30, and Djokovic and Murray 28-29, we'll see further upsets and even a loss of the top ranking by whoever happens to hold it at that point. These years will be transitional and even a bit chaotic, with the possibility of no clearly dominant player, at least by 2016.


I'll stand by this, although think that we'll see a larger transition period of 2014-16, with 2015 and 2016 being similar to 2014. What remains to be seen is how Djokovic integrates fatherhood into his tennis career (consider that only ten men have won Slams as fathers), if Rafa can find health, whether Roger can continue to beat back father time, and if Andy can re-find his 2012-13 form. But we'll see more upsets, and young pups like Kyrgios and Coric will continue to develop, while current and future second tier players like Dimitrov, Raonic, Nishikori, Vesely and Thiem will start sneaking titles away.

(20-Apr-2013 09:21 AM)El Dude Wrote:  By 2017-18 - four to five years from now, and 2017 being possibly the first Federerless year in almost two decades - we'll know who the next great players - that is, multi-Slam winners and regular #1s - are likely to be. I don't think it is anyone we currently know about, or at least anyone on the radar (top 100). It is likely someone who is still on the junior tour, or at least just starting out - age 18 or younger. I've put forth the name Nick Kyrgios as someone to keep an eye on, but I don't know enough about him - only that he just went pro, won a Challenger event, and turns 18 in a week. He may not become a great player but he's an example of the age group I'm talking about. In 2017 he'll be turning 22 years old and should have arrived at or near his peak form, as will other players that are currently age 16-18.

I can happily stand by the Kyrgios prediction, although will add Borna Coric to the mix - and maybe Alexander Zverev - as future elites.

(20-Apr-2013 09:21 AM)El Dude Wrote:  So who is the future of tennis? If we're talking about post-Big Four, I think we're going to see a group of challengers over the next few years who begin to upset them, with the key names to watch out for being Milos Raonic, Grigor Dimitrov and perhaps Bernard Tomic, but also Janowicz, Dolgopolov, Nishikori, Goffin, etc. We can even throw in Ernests Gulbis as a late-bloomer and hope that he'll at least make the top 20 and be fun to watch for a few years. But if we're talking about the next true elite player we just don't him yet...he's probably not even on tour yet and is likely age 17 or younger.

Grigor has mature nicely, as has Raonic. I had too high hopes for Janowicz, and Dolgo is probably never going to be more than he is. Nice to see Nishikori's and Goffin's rise, as well as Gulbis, but none of these guys are the "future of tennis." The window for any of these guys to have a run at the top and multi-Slams is going to be more narrow with the emergence of Kyrgios and Coric. But the future is not yet written, so anything can happen.

(20-Apr-2013 09:21 AM)El Dude Wrote:  But again, over the next couple years we're going to see continued dominance of the Big Four (or perhaps Big Three if and when Federer truly begins to fade), and then a transitional period of a couple years in which the Big Four are upset by a group of challengers from "Generation Del Potro" (those currently age 20-24), until the next great player(s) emerge sometime around 2017-2018.

Sounds about right, but we'll just have to see!
(This post was last modified: 24-Oct-2014 07:07 PM by El Dude.)
24-Oct-2014 07:01 PM
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RE: The Future of Tennis
To nit pick, I think you have underestimated Kei, so far at least, he should be the top of his lost generation. You really did end up hitting the 2014 nail on the head very well. Coric showed real promise today. He isn't there yet, but neither does his game have the horrifying holes of many others. it's easy to see two more years of development having dramatic effect on his already well-rounded game.
(This post was last modified: 24-Oct-2014 07:16 PM by Riotbeard.)
24-Oct-2014 07:15 PM
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