Tennis expert Richard Childs says that the Nadal-Joker match is maybe even the most important result of the year.
Tennis greats in control?
By Roger Childs
In the last few months of 2016 Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, both in their 30s, were out with injuries.
However, they were back on court for the Australian Open the following January. Seeded in the teens, they ended up playing each other in the final.
Until Wimbledon this year, Fed and Rafa had won the previous six grand slams – three each. The two greatest players of all time had reasserted their supremacy.
Earlier in 2018, 12 time grand slam winner, 31 year old Novak Djokovic, had surgery on an elbow. Could he also return to the top after an injury break?
The joker in the pack
He came back to the ATP circuit in March and since then his form has steadily improved. In the French Open he made it to the quarter finals, but how would he go at Wimbledon?
In the semi finals he met Nadal, who a few weeks before had won his 11th victory at Roland Garros. The match went to a fifth set and twice the Joker was down 15-40 on serve. However he clawed his way back and in the 18th game Rafa unexpectedly lost his serve to love.
Beating Nadal moved the Joker ahead 27-25 in one of the greatest rivalries in the history of tennis.
So Djokovic was through to his sixth Wimbledon final which he won in three sets over Kevin Anderson to claim his 13th grand slam title. He is now fourth on the-all time list behind Sampras (14), Nadal (17) and Federer (20).
The third king has returned.
However, are there any youngsters set to challenge the legends?
Age on their side but work to do
Five names come to mind and two of them were semi finalists in the Australian Open.
21 year old Korean, Hyeon Chung received a lesson in court craft from Federer in the first set of his semi. He will have learnt a lot from that. Sadly blisters forced him out in set two. However, he has a great future.
He had beaten Djokovic earlier in the tournament, prompting Tom Scot to craft a premature cartoon suggesting that this result was symptomatic of a changing of the guard. Not yet Tom!
Englishman, Kyle Edmund, is the heir-apparent to Andy Murray on the British tennis scene. Aged 23 he also has a great future and was unlucky to sustain a hip problem in his Australian Open semi-final encounter with Marin Cilic.
The Australians have high hopes for 22 year old Nick Kyrgios. He has been around in professional tennis for a few years and thrashed Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon a couple of years back. He also won the Brisbane tournament in January. His big problem is on-court temperament and he could also learn from a careful study of Federer’s and Nadal’s approach.
Alexander Zverev Jr is ranked third in the world and won the Italian Open last year. The 20 year old German is an exciting player and leads the younger pack at present. However, he needs to work on his temper especially after making a fool of himself in his third round encounter with Chung in Melbourne.
He under-estimated his opponent and his frustration boiled over in the fifth set when he broke a racket behind the baseline. The set was lost 6-0. Federer has been talking to him and hopefully the young German will be better for it. He did make the quarter finals in Paris.
18 year old Canadian Denis Shapovalov is another exciting prospect. He beat Nadal and Del Potro in 2017 on his way to reaching the semi final in his home country’s Open: the Rogers Cup.
The big three secure for now
None of the young pretenders made it to the quarters at Wimbledon, but their time will come.
For now Rafa, Fed and the Joker are ranked one, two and tenth in the world rankings.
Zverev is number four and del Potro, who ran Nadal close in five sets in London, is fourth. Anderson, who has contested two of the last three grand slams is fifth.
So it’s on to the US Open in August-September. Can any of the youngsters break through into the big time by winning this last grand slam of the year?
Meanwhile Andy Murray three time grand slam winner is on the comeback trail. He has slipped in the rankings to 838! but may be wild card at Flushing Meadows.