Where is the next generation in tennis?

Roger Federer’s iron grip on men’s tennis continued in Melbourne with a remarkable 20th grand slam title for the Swiss. Grand Slam titles are intensely difficult to win, having to win seven 5-set matches in a fortnight is no mean feat. Federer seems to make it look effortlessly easy. Barring two dropped sets against Marin Cilic in the final (one being a tiebreak), the supreme Swiss did not drop a set. With Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal falling foul to their on-going injuries, Federer looked destined to engrave his name on the Norman Brookes Trophy for the sixth time.

Okay, enough purring about Roger, we all know he is majestic but what about the others? Where is the next generation? How can a 36-year-old be winning grand slams without barely losing a set?

“Edmunds’ most impressive victory came in the fourth round”

The lack of upcoming stars on the men’s tour has been a concern for most tennis fans. Who will take over when the old guard have hung up their rackets? However, during the fortnight in Melbourne, there has been cause for optimism. Enter Kyle Edmund and Chung Hyeon. Edmund, the 23-year-old Brit, reached a career-high ranking of 26 this week after a fairy-tale run in the Melbourne heat. The Brit has always shown glimpses of potential with huge weapons including his howitzer of a forehand. In Melbourne, Edmund strung together consistently solid performances to reach the semi-final of a Grand Slam for the first time. The run will no doubt make the British public sit up and take notice and will provide confidence about life post-Andy Murray. Edmund’s most notable win came against the Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, but I believe Edmunds’ most impressive victory came in the fourth round against Nikoloz Basilashvili. Under the blistering Melbourne heat, the Brit battled past Basilashvili in 3 hours 34 minutes. The temperature reached a peak of 40.2 degrees in the shade during the match. A phenomenal effort from Edmund to come through such a battle in the most testing of conditions.

The winner of the ATP’s next-gen tournament in Milan in November, Chung Hyeon proved just why he is expected to be one of the most prominent figures in the coming years in men’s tennis. The 21 year old South Korean reached his maiden Grand Slam semi-final in Melbourne, in the process displaying his breath-taking array of shot-making from the back of the court, a shot which his opponent Novak Djokovic would have been proud of. Djokovic was full of praise after his fourth-round loss to the Korean, stating; ‘Amazing. Amazing performance. He was a better player on the court tonight. He deserved to win, no question about it. Whenever he was in trouble, he came up with some unbelievable shots, passing shots. Just from the back of the court, you know, he was like a wall’. High praise indeed from Djokovic who has won 12 Grand Slams due to his unrelenting consistency from the baseline. Chung’s magical run, was halted abruptly by the Fed-express, although he was heavily hindered by horrific blisters.

“The 2018 edition of the Australian Open was a positive one for the young guns”

Despite disappointing performances from Nick Kyrgios and Alex Zverev, the two leaders of the next generation, the 2018 edition of the Australian Open was a positive one for the young guns. Chung and Edmund showed in Melbourne that a breakthrough is very much possible for the younger players, but as we have all become accustomed, Roger Federer was in a league of his own.

Luca O’Cleirigh

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