LAST MONTH’S Australian Open was one of the most exciting in recent years, as Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic won the respective singles titles. It was Osaka’s second Grand Slam after beating Serena Williams in the US Open last year, cementing her position at the top of the WTA Rankings. ForDjokovic, this was his seventh win at the Australian Open. No male player has won this tournament more times than the Serbian.
What was so exciting about this year’s tournament was how many young players were in the mix in the latter stages. In the women’s singles, four of the eight quarter-finalists were aged 25 or under, whilst two of the four semi-finalists in the men’s competition were. Granted, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal dispatched Lucas Pouille and Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets, but these two young guns caused some serious upsets on their way to the last four. Frenchman Pouille saw off Milos Raonic in his quarter-final, whilst Greece’s Tsitsipas overcame Roger Federer in perhaps the game of the tournament.
2018 ended with many tennis fans under the impression that the ‘old guard’ were set to struggle in 2019. In the WTA Tour, 24-year-old Ukrainian Elina Svitolina won October’s ‘Finals’ tournament in Singapore, whilst 22-year-old Australian Ashleigh Barty won the Elite Trophy in China. At the men’s World Tour Finals in London, 21-year old German Alexander Zverev stunned Novak Djokovic to win the crown. The world number one had won 35 of his previous 37 games until his loss to Zverev, which came in straight sets. It
capped off a stellar 2019 for the youngster, who had won high-profile tournaments like the Washington and Madrid Open earlier on in the year.
In the weeks leading up to the season finale, the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Daniil Medvedev and Karen Khachanov were victorious, too all of whom are under the age of 22. Tsitsipas won the Stockholm Open in
October, instrumental in his award for the ATP’s ‘Most Improved Player’ of the Year. Russian Medvedev was victorious at the Japan Open, as well as the Sydney International and Winston-Salem Open earlier on in 2018. Fellow Russian Karen Khachanov, 22, was victorious at the Marseille Open, the Kremlin Cup and the
All of these results from the youngsters are exciting and impressive, but it must be noted how the old guard are standing firm. Andy Murray’s decline in recent years and his looming retirement from the sport is
one unfortunate loss, but the likes of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are continuing to plough on, as competitive as ever. Roger Federer battled through five sets and was agonisingly close against Stefanos Tsitsipas last month at the Australian Open, but at 37, many are beginning to wonder
whether we are seeing the final year or so of his illustrious career.
However, neither Nadal nor Djokovic are showing signs of slowing down as they go into their thirties. Nadal, as he seems to always do now, was victorious at the French Open in June, his 17th Grand Slam title. On top of this, he reached yet another Wimbledon semi-final, and won tournaments including the Monte Carlo Masters and the Barcelona Open. Novak Djokovic, now 31, underwent elbow last January following the Australian Open last year. Incredibly, though, he was back playing in less than six weeks. The Serbian
went on to win both Wimbledon and the US Open in straight sets, also taking the Shanghai and Cincinnati Masters titles. Last month, he destroyed Rafael Nadal in straight sets to win his 15th Grand Slam title. For all of the upsets the young guns may have caused, they’re yet to break any of the men’s ‘old guard’ in a Grand Slam Final.
The women’ circuit is perhaps more diverse. Caroline Wozniaki took the Australian Open title, Simona Halep the French and Angelique Kerber Wimbledon in July. However, of the 58 WTA tournaments throughout 2018, 23 were won by players aged 25 or under. Japanese superstar Naomi Osaka is perhaps the best example of a player who is stealing the thunder from the previously dominant forces like Serena Williams. Bursting onto the scene in 2016 as the WTA’s ‘Best Newcomer of the Year’, she had a quiet 2017. However, her 2018 was from that. She won the Indian Wells tournament in March, dropping just one set on her way to victory. The biggest result for Osaka came in New York though, when she defeated Serena Wiliams to win the US Open. The win put her top of the prize money for the calendar year, and lifted her to the top of the rankings, the first Asian woman to achieve such a feat.
2019 looks set to be one of the best years of tennis for some time. With some of the world’s best a year older, and the upcoming superstars a year more experienced, we can expect more battles, upsets and excitement in the ATP and WTA Tours.