Andy Roddick recently said something that was quite thought-provoking...which is not as surprising as one might think, actually. Roddick is often insightful and despite on-court behavior that would suggest otherwise, he is pretty mature in the intellect department. He made a statement to Reuters in which he astutely pointed out that teenagers are no longer contenders to win majors.
Quite. In fact, the situation is far more dire for teens than simply the truth that Ryan Harrison (who isn't even a teen anymore) can't win the US Open. There aren't even any teenagers in the top 100. NONE. Maybe it shouldn't, but this takes me ever-so-slightly by surprise. I suppose it's easy to lose track when the last teen that did something notable was Bernard Tomic, and that had more to do with match tanking and trouble with the local traffic authorities.
So, without "cheating" (ie, checking the ATP website first), I tried to think of players that were still teenagers. I came up with (in no certain order) Kei Nishikori (22), Ryan Harrison (20), Bernard Tomic (20), Ricardis Berankis (22) and Denis Kudla (20). Except for Nishikori, this isn't exactly a list of the movers and shakers, is it?
This strikes me as a bit sad, if I'm being honest. There is little in tennis more exciting than watching some brash young kid come out of nowhere to win Wimbledon. I speak, of course, of Boris Becker, who burst onto the tennis scene in 1985 at age 17. It is not completely accurate to say that Becker was a nobody headed into the All England Club. He'd won the title at Queen's Club and got to the semis in Rome earlier that spring. Still, we're talking 17 years old...and Wimbledon is...well....Wimbledon.
Sure, if you want to be negative, his draw was....favorable. No Mats Wilander, no John McEnroe or Stefan Edberg in his path. But that really proves my point more than anything. When Juan Martin Del Potro won the US Open in 2009, he did so beating the best of the best. It might be the finest collection of upset wins I have ever seen. But in 25 years, people are probably not going to be talking/writing about Del Potro's 2009 US Open title run. Yet here I sit, reminiscing about a Wimbledon final that actually included Kevin Curren and I get a little misty-eyed. Why? because young, fearless Boris Becker created magic during that fortnight.
I regret that I have to agree with Mr. Roddick. The current tennis climate will simply not allow for such eventualities. Forget winning Wimbledon. These days, a 17-year old would be lucky to make a run and win the Guadalajara Challenger.
There are plenty of "whys", of course...starting with the fact that the top 10 is outstanding and the top 4 are unquestionably the best tennis has ever produced. It is a generation of superstars that has redefined what consistency means. There was a time not long ago that consistent was just one in a series of check marks in the "strengths" column. Now it's a brutal and unyielding fact. They aren't going to lose. Short of a tennis Armageddon, there is simply no scenario which doesn't include 3 of the top 4 in the round of 16 (and let's be honest, it's almost always all 4 of them, with David Ferrer thrown in as well).
But I think it's slightly more complicated than that the guys at the top are too good. It's that the guys at the top have set the tone for the entire tour. People will talk about the physicality of the game, a facet hewn almost single-handedly by Rafael Nadal. And it's a fair assessment. What 17-year old is physically mature enough to go toe-to-toe with Novak Djokovic? Regardless, it used to be that raw talent (Becker) and determination (Lleyton Hewitt) could compensate for the physical disparities. No longer.
There is an old saying -- iron sharpens iron. And the top 4 have been sharpening each other (and the rest of the top 10 to a lesser extent) for years. This process of knocking into each other for so long has created something of a tennis super-species, that rare combination of outrageous talent AND superb athleticism that has left us with Grand Slam champions that simply don't lose.
I mean no disrespect to Mr. Becker when I say this, but he's lucky he came along when he did. Otherwise, we might be talking about that German red-haired kid that took a set from Roger Federer in the third round at Wimbledon......or more likely, we wouldn't be talking about him at all.
Sat 06/07 06:31
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Thu 06/06 04:05
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Fri 17/05 18:03
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Tue 19/03 21:01
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Nadal's return at Vina del Mar
Thu 15/11 16:54
Federer and company make no room at the top for youth
Tue 11/09 20:24
Murray joins the ranks of Grand Slam elite
Fri 17/08 19:45
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Mon 13/08 23:05
Tennistalk is in Cincinnati again
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Wed 09/05 14:58
Novak Djokovic takes up skating at the Madrid ice rink
Thu 29/03 14:30
Nadal and Spain give French TV a punch in the mouth
|1. Djokovic||12 500 pts|
|2. Murray||8 750 pts|
|3. Federer||8 670 pts|
|4. Ferrer||6 970 pts|
|5. Nadal||6 385 pts|
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