Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Juan Martin del Potro all won their first grand slam titles when they were 20 years old. Nadal has gone on to become one of the all-time greats. Djokovic recently captured his second slam and is finally hitting his stride. And Del Potro is slowly but surely getting back to his best form after a year away from the tour.
Milos Raonic wins his first ATP title in San Jose, the SAP Open, a level 250 event, the smallest possible ATP event, and all of the sudden he’s the future of tennis?
His big breakthrough came at the Australian Open where he won seven matches before losing to David Ferrer in the fourth round. And he’s done a good job of following up that performance with the win in San Jose and a final in Memphis. But is this really enough to say that he’s a future world number one? Djokovic is 18-0 on the season and people are still hesitant about proclaiming that he’ll end the year number 1.
Then there’s Richard Berankis, Bernard Tomic, Ryan Harrison, and Alexandr Dolgopolov, too. Apparently, these guys are the future top players in tennis. The new generation of “New Balls, Please.” But why?
Honestly, I’ve never even seen Berankis play. I just keep reading his name next to all of these other guys. And looking up his numbers, he’s done nothing to show that he’s going to be a great player in the future. And he’s already 20.
The only time I hear about Tomic is during the Australian Open where he’s played some good matches the last two years. But what else has he done? I guess he still has some time, being only 18, but it’s time to make a legitimate breakthrough and scalp some big names if he wants to be regarded as a future great.
I was very impressed with Harrison’s play at last year’s US Open and, most recently, at Indian Wells. His game is a lot of fun to watch. But again, he needs to make a legitimate breakthrough. Richard Gasquet, Tomas Berdych, Andy Murray, Nadal, Djokovic, all of these guys BEAT Federer when they were teenagers, they didn’t just keep it moderately close over two sets.
Then there’s Dolgopolov, who’s a whopping 22. Considering the way he plays, it makes sense that he would be a late bloomer of some sort, but can anyone really see this guy consistently winning big events and taking out top players? I mean consistently, not just every full moon. His style is exciting, no question, but it’s a style that’ll make him a perennial dark horse, but never a legitimate contender.
Raonic has definitely distanced himself from the rest of these players, though. He’s easily one of my favorite players already and I would love to see him winning slams as soon as possible. But, again, if Djokovic hasn’t done enough to show that he’ll overtake the number one spot this year, then there’s almost zero basis to say that any of these upstarts will be number one or slam winners in the future. I understand why there is so much hype, though. Only a few months ago I was seriously wondering where all the young talents are and I’m very excited with the recent breakthroughs, but it’s way too soon to say they are the future.
Let’s not forget all of the hype that surrounded the formidable Donald Young and how great that turned out. (I still can’t believe he beat Murray). Let’s just stay a little realistic for now and wait for things to play out more before proclaiming anyone the second coming of Pete Sampras.
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