FRENCH OPEN 2021: Is it time for the altering of the guard?

Or, put one other means, whether or not a youthful era of males lastly is poised to persistently win Grand Slam titles.

“I imply, I mentioned it a thousand instances. I don’t know what number of instances individuals need me to repeat it. In fact the ‘Subsequent Gen’” — a advertising and marketing slogan pushed by the ATP — “is there, is coming, no matter. However right here we’re, nonetheless successful the most important tournaments and Slams. I don’t know what to let you know apart from that,” Djokovic mentioned.

“I’m not targeted on the ‘Subsequent Gen,’ despite the fact that I do know … it creates a narrative. Individuals like to speak about it. High quality. The fellows are there. They’re already establishing themselves within the High 5, High 10 of the world. Nothing new,” he continued, then famous with pleasure: “However we’re nonetheless there.”

When the French Open begins in Paris on Sunday, it is going to really feel in some methods like order restored after the 2020 version was altered in two important methods due to the coronavirus pandemic: Only one,000 spectators had been let into Roland Garros per day, and competitors began in September as a substitute of Could. Again in its rightful spot on the calendar — properly, delayed by per week due to COVID-19 considerations, however shut sufficient — and with about 5,300 followers allowed in every of the primary 10 days, then 10,000 or extra every of the final 5 days, might the clay-court championship function the setting for a symbolic altering of the guard?

Or, to Djokovic’s level, will the elders stay in cost?

“Lots of people underestimate the time and the period we’re enjoying in, with by far the three finest gamers within the historical past of the sport,” mentioned Dominic Thiem, whose U.S. Open title final September makes him the one first-time main males’s champion since 2014. “It is greater than clear that it’s extremely powerful to win Grand Slam tournaments, having to beat, a lot of the instances, two of them.”

A glimpse on the dominance:

— 15 of the previous 16 Grand Slam tournaments had been received by the Huge Three;

— beginning with the 2005 French Open, they collected 54 of the previous 63 main titles;

— in that very same span, 23 Slam finals concerned one in every of these matchups: Djokovic vs. Nadal, Djokovic vs. Federer, or Nadal vs. Federer.

That may’t occur at Roland Garros as a result of they’re in the identical half of the bracket for the primary time at a Grand Slam match. No. 1 Djokovic might face No. 8 Federer within the quarterfinals; one in every of them might meet No. 3 Nadal within the semifinals.

The opposite half contains No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas and No. 6 Alexander Zverev, who’re among the many 20-something males thought-about contenders to seize a primary main trophy, together with No. 2 Daniil Medvedev (though even he would acknowledge not in Paris, the place he’s 0-4 up to now) and No. 7 Andrey Rublev.

Issues look fairly completely different within the girls’s recreation, the place the query is which participant would possibly prolong the latest run of success of the youthful set in girls’s tennis. Iga Swiatek, for instance, received final 12 months’s French Open at age 19 (she turns 20 on Monday). Different comparatively latest Slam champs embrace Ash Barty, 25, Sofia Kenin, 22, and Bianca Andreescu, 20.

After which there may be somebody like Coco Gauff, nonetheless simply 17, who retains shifting up the WTA rankings. She, like 19-year-old Jannik Sinner within the males’s recreation, is seen as a part of a gaggle of doable future stars, able to step forth as Serena Williams, who’s 39, and the highest males transfer on.

As in any sport — or, in truth, any enterprise — finally there may be turnover. Needs to be, in fact.

The guessing recreation in tennis has been about each who will break by way of and when.

With Federer turning 40 in August, Nadal turning 35 subsequent week and Djokovic now 34, there did appear to be some latest proof that such a shift is likely to be occurring, together with within the rankings, the place Medvedev is the primary man apart from the Huge Three or Andy Murray to be ranked within the High 2 in 15 years.

Thiem’s triumph in New York at age 27 made him the primary man born within the Nineteen Nineties to win a Grand Slam title. Runner-up Zverev and the opposite semifinalists at Flushing Meadows additionally belong to that decade — and the 2020 U.S. Open was the primary Slam since 2004 with out a minimum of one in every of Djokovic, Nadal or Federer within the semifinals.

A caveat, although: Neither Federer ( coming off two knee operations that sidelined him for greater than a 12 months ) nor Nadal entered the U.S. Open, and Djokovic was disqualified within the fourth spherical.

Three latest Masters 1000 finals featured matchups between up-and-comers, together with Tsitsipas vs. Rublev at Monte Carlo.

However on the final Masters 1000, on clay on the Italian Open this month, Djokovic confronted Nadal within the closing (Nadal received, good preparation for his bid for a 14th French Open title and twenty first Grand Slam trophy general).

After beating Tsitsipas within the semifinals in Rome, Djokovic bumped into Nadal within the locker room.

“We form of joked round,” Djokovic mentioned, “that the previous guys are nonetheless not giving up.”

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Extra AP Tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports activities

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