For the first time in ATP history, there are no active Grand Slam champions under the age of 30 years old. Thanks to Marin Cilic’s birthday recently, we have gone into uncharted territory on the men’s side of the game.
There was once a time when players barely made it into their thirties: Bjorn Borg retired before that age and many great players like Pete Sampras and John McEnroe hung up their racquets very early into their thirties.
What makes this even more surprising is that there are only three active Grand Slam runners-up in their twenties. These men are Dominic Thiem (25 years old), Milos Raonic (27), and Kei Nishikori (28). None of them have ever won a set in a Major final.
Why are the seven best players of this era and the only Grand Slam champions all on the so-called wrong side of their career? Why are there no youngsters breaking through and changing the guard? There are so many reasons why – but first, who are these seven players?
Who Are The Active Grand Slam Champions?
Roger Federer (37-years-old) – Widely considered as the greatest of all time; he has racked up an astonishing twenty Grand Slam titles in his illustrious career – including a record eight Wimbledon titles. There is no doubting the Swiss star’s longevity as he won his first major title back in 2003. Federer is 37-years-young and is still ranked at #2, so he is still very much at the top of his game.
Rafael Nadal (32-years-old) – Tennis fans have been lucky enough to witness this left-hander leave everything he has on court in all 1,107 matches of his phenomenal career. In 2010, he became the youngest man in history to complete the career Grand Slam and his total now sits at 17. Only seven men in tennis history have won 11 or more major titles, Nadal has won eleven Roland Garros titles alone. The current world #1 is a true legend of the sport.
Novak Djokovic (31-years-old) – The most recent Grand Slam champion is back to his best, or at least close. Two Major titles this summer have seen the Serb put himself in prime position to end the year as the World #1 for the fifth time. Djokovic at his best is a scary sight for the ATP and we know a lot about that: in 2016 he became just the third man in history to hold all four Grand Slams at the same time.
Andy Murray (31-years-old) – The former World #1 fills in the last slot in what is arguably the best quartet in tennis history – the Big Four. We have witnessed so many magical Murray moments and his achievements are somewhat overlooked at times. The Scot has won two Wimbledon titles, two Olympic Gold Medals, a US Open title, the Davis Cup and many more. Hopefully we can see Murray back at this level as soon as possible.
Stan Wawrinka (33-years-old) – When you think of the most devastating backhands of all time, Wawrinka’s thunderous one-hander always springs to mind. The Swiss powerhouse has plucked away his entire career and late on, he found success. The 3-time major champion has muscled his way into the tennis elite with some exquisite performances in the biggest of matches. Perhaps he should be included in the Big 4.
Juan Martin del Potro (30-years-old) – One of the most popular players in the history of the game, del Potro has been through so much in his career but has always ended up on top. A two-time Olympic medalist, the Tower of Tandil won his first – and only – Grand Slam title back in 2009 where he defeated Nadal and Federer back-to-back to claim the US Open. Nine years later and he was back in the final in New York; more major titles may be on the horizon for the man with the biggest forehand in tennis.
Marin Cilic (30-years-old) – The youngest player on this list is the big-hitting gentleman. Cilic has been a Slam contender for the past five years now and he does not look to be getting worst, only better. The Croat won his only Grand Slam title in 2014, but he has made two other finals in the last two seasons. Expect many more deep runs from Cilic over the next few years.
Who Can Challenge Them?
It is starting to look like the only thing that can stop the elite seven is age. No young players are posing as a consistent threat to the top of the game. Will one of the next-gen reshuffle the ATP hierarchy or will it take a relative veteran at the end of their twenties. I will be surprised if we see a new Grand Slam champion within the next two years, however, I can see two men having a very legitimate shot.
Dominic Thiem (25-years-old) – In my opinion, I would say that the Austrian is the most likely player to become the eighth active male Grand Slam champion. Of course his biggest chance comes at Roland Garros, where he has made the semifinal for three years in a row and he was the runner-up in Paris this year. Thiem is the only 25-or-under player who has made multiple major semifinals.
Alexander Zverev (21-years-old) – Although there are alarm bells ringing in terms of the young German’s performances at Slams, he is still only 21-years-old. He certainly has the game and is a serial winner on the ATP World Tour; Zverev just struggles to translate this form into the biggest tournaments but that will come, he is too good of a player. With a few more months of Ivan Lendl in his corner, the German’s breakthrough may come sooner than we think.
The ATP is definitely going through a strange phase at the moment as the current most successful players are all over the age of thirty. It is a complete contrast to the WTA, who have had eight different Grand Slam champions in the last eight Slam events. The ATP only has seven current Major winners!
What Do You Think?
Let me know what your thoughts are on the current situation on the men’s side. Is it good to have these amazing players still at the top of their games or is it bad that no youngsters are stepping up?
Comment your opinions below or tweet them into me (@JedTennis) or us (@LastWordTennis).
Main Photo via Getty