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Young Guns of Tennis – Who Will Make It

by Jonas Eriksson

Being spoiled with the era of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray – I’m worried that the coming generation won’t be up to the same standard. I know it’s almost impossible to reach the drama of the last 8-9 years, but I want to keep watching tennis and I want to enjoy it to the max. Federer drew me back to the game after a stint of disenchantment and I would hate to lose that passion again. So I keep hoping we get another back of truly great players to keep the sport alive and kicking for many years to come.

But looking at the up and coming young guns of today, I’m not too worried. Grigor Dimitrov has been dubbed Baby Federer and for a good reason since their playing styles and shot mannerisms are very similar. Dimitrov is currently ranked #28 in the world and is starting to get some impressive wins under his belt. He’s my number one “young gun” when it comes to being entertaining to watch.

So we have a Federer for when our great champ retires!? It will be close to impossible, but at least some players are still adopting the free-flowing style and the varied game. Some “experts” even talked about the death of the one-handed backhand, but players like Dimitrov, Wavrinka and Gasquet keep proving them wrong.

What about a Nadal though? Can someone take his place as the king of clay? Well, if you’re looking for a young Spanish player with a really impressive clay court game, don’t look further than Pablo Carreno-Busta a 21-year-old Spaniard who has made a small breakthrough this year. Many people predict great things from him but as great as Rafa? Nah. Rafa and Fed are both too special, but there’s hope that the gap in quality of tennis from one generation to the other isn’t going to be too big.

Anyway, from Dimitrov to the three  “misfits” (sorry fans, I know they have great potential) Bernard Tomic, Ernests Gulbis and Fabio Fognini. They all possess massive shot-making abilities and there can be no doubt that they have everything in their bodies to become top ten players, but their heads are another matter. Tomic has a tendency to just “give up” and tank away matches (plus a slightly psychotic father in John Tomic), Gulbis is sometimes called “Gulbrat” because he acts like a spoiled brat and rants and has rich parents (not his fault), Fognini is a pretty-boy Italian who strolls around the court like he’s on a Sunday walk through the city and not on a tennis court. Sometimes he doesn’t seem to give a fuck, other times he can belt the living daylights of the ball.

A recent story of Gulbis is particularly telling, both about his talent and his bratty attitude. After blowing a decent chance to beat Nadal in the quarterfinals of Rome and eventually losing in the third he said: “I thought I was the better player in the match, and also in the second and third sets (which Nadal won). . . He is solid and he didn’t do anything special and I made mistakes so he won.”

Nadal found a pretty good line without actually criticizing Gulbis (that says it all about tennis): “If you hit as hard as you can, and hit every ball at 216 (kilometers per hour) or 220 and then that means being the best player then perhaps he was the best player.”

Spot on, Rafa.

Other youngsters then? Canadian serve-canon Milos Raonic – can he amount to something? Well, in one way he already has, being ranked 16 in the world and having won four titles, one as late as in February this year.

The question is whether he can go further. Not sure. He has a big game, but sometimes big game fall short when it comes to the top 5.

One player who has reached even further than Raonic (one spot further to be exact), is Japan’s shining star Kei Nishikori who recently beat Federer in Madrid Open (Masters). We will sure see more from him in the future, especially on hard courts where he feels most comfortable.

What are your thoughts on the young guns of tennis? Who has what it takes? Have I missed someone special (I most certainly have!)? Please comment and get the discussion flowing!

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