For years, if not decades, the sport of Tennis has been dominated by some of the greatest players to ever play the game. On the men’s side, it was Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, before being joined by current world number one Novak Djokavic of Serbia. On the women’s side, Serena Williams may be the most dominant women’s singles player in history, winning 23 Grand Slam titles. She won another 14 Grand Slam doubles titles with her sister Venus Williams.
But as they say in sports, Father Time is undefeated. Federer turned 40 this year, while Rafa and Djokavic turned 35 and 34 respectively. For the first time in years, Nadal and Federer find themselves tumbling down the ATP rankings, with Nadal in sixth and Federer in a distant sixteenth. Both have battled injuries over the past few years, and Federer hasn’t won a Grand Slam tournament since 2018. Nadal, ever the expert on a clay court, won the French Open as recently as 2020.
For his part, Djokavic seems unstoppable right now. The Serbian legend has more than 3,300 more ATP points than second place Daniil Medvedev of Russia, and has won three of the Grand Slam tournaments this season except for the US Open which he lost to Medvedev. Djokavic and Federer are widely mentioned as the two greatest men’s players in history. As of now, Djokavic shows no signs of slowing down, although we all thought that of Federer at one point as well.
On the women’s side, new blood has already knocked Serena Williams down to the 41st ranked player in the world. In September of 2017, Serena gave birth to her first daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., and took a significant amount of time away from the court. The Australian Open title that she won when she was eight weeks pregnant with Alexis, was the last Grand Slam title Serena won.
So as this golden generation of tennis players enters the winter of their storied careers, who is the next generation of ATP and WTA champions? First, it would be unfair to expect any player to surpass what these legends have done over the past couple of decades. With that being said, let’s take a look at some younger players who have a chance to attain greatness on the court.
The ATP is a difficult beast to dive into right now, because of the fact thatDjokavic is still so dominant. But if we’re aiming high, why not take the 25-year old second ranked player in the world, Daniil Medvedev. Perhaps it was a sign of things to come at the US Open this year when he knocked off Novak Djokavic in straight sets 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, to take home the trophy at Flushing Meadows. Medvedev has a solid game and playing style, as the 6’6” Russian defends the baseline and neutralizes aggressive opponents. If there were any ATP player that could replace Djokavic at number one in the near future, it’s Medvedev.
German player Alexander Zverev sits third in the ATP rankings right now, and the 24-year old has been turning heads in the tennis world for years now. In terms of Grand Slam wins, Zverev still hasn’t managed to add one to his growing portfolio. The young German reached the semi finals of the French Open and the US Open this year, as well as the quarter finals of the Australian Open. Many in the industry expect 2022 to be a breakout year for Zverev, but like with Medvedev, it is still a difficult task to win on the men’s side as long asDjokavic is still around.
Canadian Denis Shapovalov is a bit of a dark horse to be on this list, but he does still hold the distinction of being the youngest player to ever make the top 30 in the ATP rankings. Shapovalov surged to as high as the number ten ranked men’s player in the world, but currently sits at eighteenth. Shapovalov exploded onto the scene back in 2017 when he defeated Juan Martin del Potro and Rafa Nadal in back to back matches at the Rogers Cup. Earlier this year, Shapovalov reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon after defeating Andy Murray and Roberto Bautista Agut. In the semi-finals, he would eventually succumb to Djokavic, who would go on to capture the title. Shapovalov has a lot of promise and youth on his side, but the young Canadian will need to prove he can close a tournament out if he wants to rise back up the ATP rankings.
Naomi Osaka is a polarizing figure in Women’s tennis. The Japanese star has publicly talked about her mental health issues, going as far as to pull out of Grand Slam tournaments. In fact, following her disappointing effort at her hometown Tokyo Olympics, and third round exit at the US Open, Osaka said she was taking a hiatus from the game. Osaka was ranked number one as recently as a few months ago, but her absence has dropped her down to thirteenth in the WTP rankings. At just 24 years old with four Grand Slam titles already under her belt, Osaka has the talent to dominate the sport. Whenever she returns to tennis, she can easily take back the number one spot.
Current WTP number one Ashleigh Barty of Australia is turning heads after the Wimbledon tournament this year. At just 25 years of age, Barty is already 18th all-time in career earnings amongst female players. While she potentially lacks the ability to dominate the sport like Osaka can, Barty is a technically sound player that ranks near the top in nearly every serving category in the WTP. Ahead of the start of the 2022 season, Barty is in the odds at BetMGM sportsbook to win the Australian Open on her home soil. While she may be relatively new to the tennis scene, expect to see Barty’s name at the top of the WTP rankings for years to come.