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Opinion: After Nadal & Federer, who will be the next ATP superstar?

A file photo Photograph: (Zee News Network)

New Delhi May 17, 2018, 10.53 AM (IST) Pankaj Agrawal

This week, Roger Federer became world number 1 in ATP ranking yet again, the fifth time in his career. He dethroned Rafael Nadal from the summit position. Earlier this year, Federer won Australian Open (his record 20th Grand Slam) and subsequently became world number one after a gap of more than five years.

When I look at these pieces of information, the mind goes numb. This is simply crazy as Federer won his first Grand Slam way back in 2003 and Nadal in 2005 and one-and-a-half decades down the line these two are still (or say again) ruling the roost.

Tennis is a demanding business and if you are even iota short of your best form and fitness, the downfall is imminent. In this scenario, the run of these two greats is no less than a miracle.

Actually, It has been a while now that men's Tennis is waiting for the next big superstar. Novak Djokovic was the last of the series (as I would not include Andy Murray and Sten Wawrinka in that top league).

In Tennis, legends mark their arrival with a big thud. The announcement of their arrival is usually loud, clear and unequivocal.

I remember in 1985, teenaged Boris Becker won Wimbledon. Similarly, Pete Sampras won US Open in 1990 - Andre Agassi won Wimbledon in 1992 - Federer announced his arrival by defeating Sampras in 2001 Wimbledon - Nadal as a 19-year-old boy won French Open in 2005.

These legends embarked upon an incredible journey after their first noticeable victory as mentioned above. Some though proved to a damp squib after their impressive start. Michael Chang, Marat Safin, Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick are few such names.

Last time such thud was created by Djokovic in 2008 when he won Australian Open and certainly he is a legend of the game with 12 Grand Slams.

So it has been a decade now that men's Tennis is waiting for its next superstar. In the history of Tennis, this gap is truly unparalleled. It is well manifested in the arrival of legends in the past - John McEnroe (1981), Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg (1985), Pete Sampras (1990), Andre Agassi (1992), Roger Federer (2001), Nadal (2005) and Djokovic (2008) and then there is a wait since 2008.

Fraternity believed that German Alexander Zverev could be the next possible superstar but so far he hasn't delivered a decisive impact. When Juan Martín del Potro won US Open, he was a potential next big name but he couldn’t really deliver the punch. Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov, who is just 19 years of age, can potentially be the next big name but time only will tell that how far he goes. As such Shapovalov was impressive in Australian Open this year. He is tough competitor, big server and like Federer possess a strong single handed backhand.

But the whole credit of the situation goes to Federer & Nadal (and Djokovic as well). In a sport like Tennis, which evolves very fast it is simply incredible to compete and rule among players of different generations. The best of Tennis players in the past could hold their sway normally for a decade but Federer and Nadal are on the horizon for 15 years now. If Federer won the first Grand Slam of the year, it is Nadal who is favourite for the second Grand Slam of the year. It is French Open which would start in two weeks' time.

As two of the greatest players of all times are still ruling the scene after 12-15 years, time is ripe for men's tennis to have its next superstar.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)

Pankaj Agrawal

Pankaj Agrawal is an IIT graduate with deep passion for sports, history and politics.

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