Young Tennis Players Need to Step Up and Take Over from Veterans

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The 2017 French Open gets underway at Rolland-Garros today and it reveals a trend that could be summarised by the expression, “Thirty is the new twenty.”

Associated Press contributor Howard Fendrich was spot-on with his observation that in the men’s’ ATP rankings, the top five spots are all taken by men 30 years of age or older, which is a first dating back to the 1970s, when the ATP first started using computers to generate the rankings.

When “Play,” or as the French would say, “Jouer” is declared, the ranking will find Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal occupying the top four spots in the world. It would be the top five had Roger Federer was not skipping the tournament.

The other observation Fendrich offered that was spot-on was his selection of the adverb and adjective “supremely enigmatic” in describing one of the youngsters in Paris, Nick Kyrgios, whom we have compared to a new and improved version of John McEnroe, minus the Grand Slam credentials.

Federer, at 35, is the old man of the group, followed by Wawrinka at 32, soon-to-be 31 Nadal. Djokovic and Murray celebrated their 30th birthdays earlier in May.

Over on the women’s side, 35-year-old Serena Williams has been dominant forever, and it is hard to doubt that if she so chose, she could win the French Open and Wimbledon after that, despite expecting a child.

The age of the top players is not without precedent, however, as Rod laver, Ken Rosewall and John Newcombe were productive well past the age of 30.

Despite that, the next generation should be prepared to step up in the near future. Twenty-year old Alexander Zverev, 23-year-old Dominic Thiem and the aforementioned Kyrgios, at 22, need at some point to step up and make the necessary breakthrough, lest we be consigned to a tennis future of the top being occupied by 40-somethings.