Alcaraz and the potential turning point in men’s tennis
For much of the past two decades, men’s tennis has existed under the shadow of a double-edged sword. The Big 3 era – or Big 4 era if you count the time Andy Murray was at the height of his powers – caused a sense of conflict in many fans.
They knew that seeing the dominance of Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic was to be part of a special era in the game, but there was also a sense of lamentation that no new stars were rising in the game capable of breaking the dominance of the Big 3. Sure, we had players flirting with the idea – from Del Potro to Zverev to Wawrinka – all of whom were capable of picking up a Grand Slam or two along the way. But nobody came close to “hanging” with the Big 3.
For many, 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz is the new superstar that tennis is waiting for. The Spaniard, now listed as the world’s number one, has positioned himself as the leader of the next generation, one capable of challenging Djokovic and Nadal, and one who can change the narrative of the men’s game. His victory in the US Open may have come as something of a surprise to the causal observer, but those who followed his fledgling career will not have been as shocked as others.
Alcaraz is only part of the equation
But Alcaraz’s rise to the summit of the game is only part of the story. Tennis doesn’t need just one superstar; it needs several. Moreover, we should point out that we can often rush to crown a king or queen of the sport without waiting for the dust to settle. While their careers have been different, Emma Radacanu could easily explain why it is all too easy for the media to anoint the “chosen one” after the briefest of successes.
Moreover, we should not forget that, despite Roger Federer’s retirement, there are two members of the Big 3 still hungry for more success. At the time of writing, Novak Djokovic is the clear favourite in the tennis betting for the Australian Open 2023. In the subsequent Major, the French Open, the odds, unsurprisingly, point to yet another win for Rafael Nadal. Both men might have had quiet ends to 2022 (for varying reasons), but it’s not as if they have suddenly hung up their racquets.
Plenty of youngsters are pushing for glory
And yet, it is encouraging that Alcaraz is not alone in coming through the ranks. As of December 2022, eight of the players ranked in the top ten in the world are aged 25 or under. Alcaraz is also joined by another teenager, Holger Rune, who is currently knocking at the door of the top ten (the young Dane is currently ranked 11th).
As such, for many of us, the turning point for men’s tennis will not be Alcaraz joining the Big 3, replacing Roger Federer (if that could be at all possible), nor will it likely be the era of Alcaraz, with the young Spaniard dominating the Slams and the rankings. What we would like to see is a new generation, featuring several players, grabbing the baton from Nadal and Djokovic and lead us into a new era. This probably won’t happen overnight, and it might take a while to transition out of the Big 3 era, but it will happen eventually.
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