The 2017 ATP season was spectacular for the sport, but not entirely for the reasons you may suspect. Everyone will remember this season for two reasons, the incredible feats achieved by both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Those two did dominate the tour in a big way, and it came at such an unexpected time that it’s hard not to only look to that as the highlight of the season. However, 2017 provided something else to the tour. For the first time since maybe 2004, we saw a group of young players win big events and appear as if they were going to break through soon. Here I tackle the question, will 2018 be the year the guard finally changes in tennis?
There are so many talented young players in the game right now, and they all shined at times in the 2017 season. Alexander Zverev, at age 20, had an incredible year outside of the majors and managed to take the world No. 3 ranking, he finished the season as world No. 4. Grigor Dimitrov also had a breakout year at age 26, he won Cincinnati and the World Tour Finals, finishing the season as the world No. 3. On top of that, there’s a bunch of other very young players who have so much potential. To name a few, players like Dominic Thiem, Denis Shapovalov, Andrey Rublev, Jack Sock, and David Goffin all had shining moments in 2017. There’s more talent in the youth then we’ve seen in a long time, and they almost seem ready to take over, the question is, will the old guard let them?
I started watching tennis in 2003, so I’ve never known a tour where either or all of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic were the guys to beat. They are getting old, though. Federer is already old, age 36, and is intelligently playing a limited schedule because of that. Nadal is 31 and Djokovic is 30, Djokovic is coming off a rough season. The thing is, though, if Nadal and Federer play like they did last year and Djokovic comes back strong, does the new guard have the capability to take over? Honestly, they don’t. Those three are maybe the three greatest players of all time playing at the same time, if one goes down you still have to beat the other two, and I’m not so sure that 2018 will be the time where that’s possible. I will say this, the time is coming, it may not be in 2018 but it could be. For now, we’ll have to wait and see.