When the Russian Daniil Medvedev challenges Novak Djokovic in the final of the Australian Open on this Sunday (9.30 a.m. at Eurosport), the tennis world is once again asking itself a well-known question: will there finally be a long-awaited changing of the guard? Medvedev is in great shape.
With his victory on Friday in the semi-finals against Stefanos Tsitsipas, the Russian has recorded 20 wins in a row, twelve of them against players from the top 10 in the world rankings. But is it enough for Djokovic this time too? Eight times he was in the final in Melbourne, eight times he has won. More often than anyone else.
A few years ago, the marketing experts at the professional organization ATP had an idea. The question of what would actually happen to their product if Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Djokovic should one day end their great careers has been preoccupying them for a long time.
Tennis needs new heroes
When the defining figures of the past two decades disappear, the sport needs new heroes, then as now is the obvious answer. But where should they come from, as long as the big three still impressively put every challenger in their place?
The ATP therefore created the “NextGen” construct, the next generation for professional tennis. With this stamp, the best talents in the world should be built up early as the stars of tomorrow. The y even received their own year-end tournament, equivalent to the ATP finals of the eight best of the year.
And indeed: the names that can be found in the lists of participants and winners have long been familiar to tennis fans today. Dominic Thiem was already too old and Alexander Zverev too good to appear at the premiere in Milan in 2017, but for example Tsitsipas, Andrej Rublew or Medvedev all once played at the young talent event.
Only with the replacement of the old heroes has it not really worked out until today. The only Grand Slam title that did not go to Federer, Nadal or Djokovic in the past four years was won by the Austrian Thiem in September. At that time, however, Federer and Nadal had not started, and Djokovic had eliminated himself through a disqualification. The re remains a small flaw. Medvedev now has another chance in Melbourne to finally initiate the change of times. The “next gen” is coveting. Again.