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The Wimbledon Fortnight – Day Twelve: The Next Generation?

Only four men remain. It's the absolute favourite, Novak Djokovic, against three young contenders trying to prove their worth.

It’s Men’s Semifinals day! Unfortunately, due to Roger Federer’s untimely defeat in the quarter-finals (a blow which I haven’t quite recovered from, and the merest mention of his name brings me close to tears), I have been forced to choose a new player whom I’ll be supporting. There’s one big name left, Novak Djokovic, who’s on track to equal Federer (here come the waterworks again) and Nadal’s record-breaking twenty Grand Slams, and three young players who are still burning to win their first major. Will the next generation finally take over the dynasty of the Big Three?

Four men walk onto Centre Court at Wimbledon today – and only two of them will return on Sunday. Sounds like the beginning of a glorious literary epic, doesn’t it? Let’s add some more info: one of them, a Serbian, is the absolute favourite and the only one over thirty, while an Italian (Matteo Berrettini), a Pole (Hubert Hurkacz), and a Canadian (Denis Shapovalov) are trying to dethrone him. No idea how this novel would continue – and that’s the fun of it, really. Let’s hope that these three men are not afraid of Djokovic’ seemingly invulnerable position at the top of the mountain, so we’ll have a truly exciting couple of matches ahead.

Over the years, many young tennis players have been unable to break through the defences of the Big Three. They can merely claim that they have shared the court with their heroes, who taught them a valuable lesson: there’s no place for the new kids in town. Hubert Hurkacz, after he had beaten Roger Federer (…) in three gruesome sets, told the shocked audience that Federer had always been his hero, and that he grew up watching him on tv. This was a match he would never forget (and neither will countless Federer fans, albeit for very different reasons). It seems that, suddenly, there is a vacancy for the next big thing in tennis.

John McEnroe claimed he simply knew when his time had come when a younger players beat him easily, while he thought he was playing his best tennis. During an interview at Wimbledon this year, Boris Becker said there was one particular match after which he realised his time as a professional tennis player was over. The same went for Pete Sampras, who was famously beaten by Roger Federer (will it hurt less the more I talk about him?), and it was seen as a passing of the torch to the next generation. Turns out, no king will rule forever. But nobody knows when their time has truly come.

Tennis has evolved so much over the years. The game has become faster, the rackets have become bigger and are not made of wood anymore, the players have become taller on average, and the serve has become increasingly important. Whenever I watch old matches, I cannot help but laugh at the way they play, with their silly hops and their tiny rackets – and their extremely short shorts. But while writing this, I cannot help but wonder what the game of tennis will look like in ten years’ time, or twenty. Will I laugh when I look back on the current players? Will I look back and sigh, because the sport’s best years were at the start of the second millennium? Or will I be watching an entirely new form of tennis, with new legends and a next generation desperately trying to stop their reign?

Only time will tell.

Do you think it’s time for the next generation? Who do you think will win the title? Do let me know in the comments! Also, don’t forget to follow me!

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