In 2018, men’s tennis continued to dominated by the old guard of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Remarkably, the trio, aged 37, 32 and 31 respectively, again finished the year in the top three ranking spots, a feat they had first achieved back in 2007.
One alarming statistic underlines the enduring dominance of the older generation; men’s tennis has no grand slam winners aged in their 20s.
Remember the name.
Stefanos Tsitsipas has beaten his idol Roger Federer to reach the last eight in Melbourne.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) January 20, 2019
“You’re watching the changing of the guard”
Some observers were predicting that 2019 would be the year that Federer and Nadal would finally give way to a younger generation of stars, with Alexander Zherev, Karen Khachanov and Stefanos Tsitsipas considered the most likely young players to break through. Tsitsipas took a huge step towards the Grand Slam title many feel is his destiny with an emotional four-set victory over his childhood idol, Roger Federer, last night.
“That moment is definitely something that I will never, ever, ever forget,” a still stunned Tsitsipas told reporters hours after the match.
“This match point is going to stay — I’m pretty much sure — forever, for the rest of my life.”
Stefanos Tsitsipas called himself "the happiest man on earth" after outlasting Roger Federer at the Australian Open. https://t.co/JSZQyelja4
— USA TODAY Sports (@usatodaysports) January 20, 2019
After his surprise exit from the tournament he won last year, Federer reflected that he saw some parallels between himself and his young conqueror. “He has a one-handed backhand, and I used to have long hair too,” Federer said.
For tennis legend John McEnroe, the match was a pivotal moment in Tsitsipas’ career. “You’re watching the changing of the guard,” he said. Former doubles champion Mark Woodforde echoed these sentiments on BBC Radio 5 coverage of the match.
Whether or not that proves to be the case, it had been a remarkably nerveless display from the Greek prodigy, who attacked relentlessly with his swashbuckling forehand, consistently landed his first serve and fended off all 12 break points Federer had against him.
— Reuters (@Reuters) January 20, 2019
Could Tsitsipas go all the way at this Australian Open?
Tsitsipas will now meet Spanish 23rd seed Roberto Bautista Agut in the quarterfinals. Bautista Agut is a canny veteran of the tour but Tsitsipas looked irresistible in ousting Federer and will enter the match riding a wave of confidence. A win there would set up a semi-final clash against the winner of Rafael Nadal and Frances Tiafoe, another youngster in an exciting vein of form.
Another hotly-tipped youngster, Alexander Zherev, is also still alive in the draw and was about to play Milos Raonic at time of writing. Despite his prodigious all-round game and booming backhand, Zverev had previously produced mainly underwhelming performances at the sport’s grand slam tournaments.
Former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash had previously told The CEO Magazine that Zherev was one of the very few players he could see beating Nadal on his preferred clay at Roland Garros.
Header image: Carine06