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Roger Federer’s Retirement Makes Room for a Latest Era of Champions

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Upon learning that Roger Federer will retire after the upcoming Laver Cup, Judy Murray, the Scottish tennis coach and mother of Andy Murray, certainly one of Federer’s great opponents, noted on social media that it signifies “the tip of a powerful era.”

But Federer’s pending retirement, announced Thursday, also foretells the conclusion of a bigger era defined by greater than just him.

For a lot of, it’s the best era of men’s tennis, one that features the unsurpassed greatness of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Collectively, the three helped define a transcendent and remarkably durable period in tennis history that also parallels the profession of Serena Williams, who announced she was stepping away from the game last month.

On the boys’s side, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic’s collective reign, which endured for of 20 years, was glorious for tennis fans. Their stubborn persistence also prevented quite a few “next generations” from finding the highlight.

Nadal, 36, and Djokovic, 35, who won Wimbledon this 12 months, will presumably still carry on a bit longer. But Federer’s announcement on Thursday reminded the tennis world that the tip will eventually come for all three of them, leaving the stage to a number of hungry latest players, a few of whom have already muscled their way into the breach.

“Roger has been certainly one of my idols and a source of inspiration,” Carlos Alcaraz, the brand new United States Open champion, posted on his Twitter account in tribute to Federer. “Thanks for every thing you have got done for our sport! I still wish to play with you! Wish you all of the luck on the earth for what comes next!”

What comes next is a peek right into a way forward for men’s tennis minus certainly one of its best male stars, and eventually all three of them.

Alcaraz became the youngest men’s player to achieve No. 1 when he captured the U.S. Open on Sunday at only 19. Others — including Casper Ruud, whom Alcaraz beat in the ultimate; Daniil Medvedev, last 12 months’s U.S. Open champion; Jannik Sinner, the promising 21-year-old from Italy; Nick Kyrgios; Frances Tiafoe; Felix Auger-Aliassime; and Denis Shapovalov — now can all ponder the probabilities that tennis mortality presents to them.

“It’s been a privilege to share the court with you,” Shapovalov, 23, told Federer on social media Thursday.

It is going to be a special form of privilege — and opportunity — to play without him.

But on the court, Federer’s retirement doesn’t constitute a sudden change within the landscape. There have been few expectations that, even when he could have rediscovered his health, Federer would come back to win more majors — not at 41, and never after three frustrating years attempting to regain his footing. Nadal and Djokovic, alternatively, remain the agenda setters in men’s tennis.

Since 2019, they’ve combined to win 12 of the 15 major tournaments that were held. Had Djokovic not been barred from entering the USA this 12 months, he likely would have been favored to win the U.S. Open, and if he had won, it could have given him and Nadal a sweep of this 12 months’s majors.

Two of the massive three are still as dangerous as ever, and there isn’t any fixed expiration date on either of them. There are concerns, though. Health has long been a nagging issue for Nadal, because it was on the U.S. Open, when he was ousted by Tiafoe within the fourth round after he returned from an abdominal strain that forced him out of Wimbledon.

For Djokovic, there’s the matter of his refusal to be vaccinated for the coronavirus, which prevented him from competing on this 12 months’s Australian Open and U.S. Open. Not less than some doubt stays about Djokovic’s availability for those events next 12 months, lending much more hope to the younger stars.

So, can promising young players like those previously mentioned, plus No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas, No. 5 Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem, who won the 2020 U.S. Open, make the most, as Alcaraz did? For the primary time in 20 years, it seems possible, even with Nadal and Djokovic still standing in the way in which. But tennis has seen this before.

In 2017, the A.T.P. launched the Next Generation Finals in Milan. Zverev, Medvedev and Karen Khachanov, who reached a U.S. Open semifinal last week, were all invited, together with Shapovalov, a Wimbledon semifinalist last 12 months, and Jared Donaldson, who retired with an injury. Tiafoe and Tsitsipas were alternates.

Since then, only Medvedev, 26, has won a significant title. The remainder of the time, he and the others were thwarted, often by certainly one of the massive three. It was the identical for older players, too, like Andy Roddick, Stanislas Wawrinka, David Nalbandian, David Ferrer and Mikhail Youzhny, all of whom played for leftovers.

Since 2004, Federer, Nadal or Djokovic has finished because the 12 months’s No. 1 player except one, when Andy Murray earned the excellence in 2016.

In 2018, when Youzhny retired, he said, “Sometimes these guys didn’t give anyone else probabilities to win. I can’t say I might have won more, but that is an awesome era for tennis.”

Federer got here into the sport first, turning skilled in 1998 and winning his first Grand Slam event at Wimbledon in 2003. Nadal was next, playing professionally since 2001 and winning the primary of his 22 majors in 2005. Djokovic turned skilled in 2003 and won his first major title in Australia in 2008.

It seems natural that they need to exit in the identical order. Only then can a latest generation of stars finally establish a latest era, one which has been many years within the making.

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