By Daniel McAleer.
While it seems inconceivable that the likes of Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal can go on forever, particularly the latter two, lets take a look at some of the next generation of players who could become the flag-bearers for men’s tennis when the unimaginable does eventually become a reality.
The darling of Japanese tennis has seen his popularity at home skyrocket since turning professional. He is the highest ranking Japanese player in the nations history, having reached number 15 in 2012.
He is currently ranked 21, but expect that to rise in 2013.
The Japanese is noted for his speed around the court aswell as his endurance in long matches.
Nishikori has so far won twice on the ATP tour, with both of these victories coming on the hard courts, in Tokyo and Delray Beach, he was also runner up on three occasions.
Some of Nishikori’s most notable wins have come over the likes of world number one Djokovic, Tsonga, Berdych and Ferrer.
Expect 2013 to be a defining year for the Japanese idol.
The inclusion of the Latvian powerhouse might shock some people. And maybe rightly so. The current world number 132 has often flattered to deceive in his time on the tour. A frustrating talent, he can race into commanding leads playing unstoppable tennis, and then all of a sudden collapse and end up losing. Which has happened to him on several occasions.
He boasts victories over Federer, Djokovic, Berdych and Del Potro, so he has shown he is more than capable of beating top players.
The Latvian has won two singles titles, in Delray beach (2010) and Los Angeles (2011). He also hold two victories in the doubles, the first in coming in Houston (2008) with Rainer Schuettler and then the second in Indianapolis (2009) with Dmitry Tursunov.
Lets call him a Wild Card on this list, but if he can produce the form he is capable of then he is no doubt a top ten player.
Watch this space.
Winner of the 2012 ATP newcomer of the year award, the Slovak southpaw made the headlines at the 2012 US Open, where he upset the fifth sees Jo Wilfried Tsonga with relative ease in a four set encounter.
Klizan has one tour victory under his belt, winning the St Petersburg title in 2012. He also won the Junior French Open title in 2006 on his favourite surface.
In his young career to date the world number 31 has some notable victims, with Tsonga and Chardy being the most high profile.
Watch out for “Klizko” this year.
The unorthodox Ukrainian was destined to be a sportsman it would seem. His father was also a professional tennis player and his mother a gymnast. Growing up on the professional tour definitely gave Dolgopolov all the preparation he needed to be a pro himself, especially when you have hitting partners like Andre Agassi and Boris Becker on the other side of the net.
The world number 43 is known for his unusual playing style. He boasts a quick, fluid serve, with little or no pause, his second serve is also very good. He has an ability like few others to return the ball at last second with quick swipes, a weapon which catches opponents off guard. His aggressive style makes him popular amongs fans and his matches are generally entertaining ones.
He holds two career singles titles, winning at Umag Croatia (2011) and Washington in (2012). He also has one victory in the doubles with partner Xavier Malisse at Indian Wells (2011).
Dolgopolov suffers from a condition called Gilbert’s Syndrome, which is a liver problem that can cause a lot of fatigue. He has to take medication and adhere to very strict diet in order to give himself the best chance of playing regularly. Lets all hope he can manage this condition to continue to provide us with some more enthralling tennis matches.
Another son of professional athletes. Jerzy’s parents were both pro Volleyball players. The Giant Pole is on pretty much every ones to watch list. The world number 26 stands at a gangly 6’8. In his armory he possesses a huge serve as well as an equally impressive forehand. He also has deceptively excellent touch all over the court for a man of his size.
The 22 year old had his best year to date in 2012. He marched to the Paris Masters final, beating three top 20 players and two top 10 players on his way to the final, Andy Murray and Janko Tipsarevic being his highest profile victims. He lost at the final hurdle to Spaniard David Ferrer.
At the tender age of 22 it would seem that the stage is set for the Towering Pole, it is now up to him to prove everyone right. Lets hope he can do it.
Everything about this likeable Toronto native is larger than life. He stands at a 6’5 in his bare feet and has a booming serve to go along with it. In 2012 Raonic held the impressive record of having served the most aces per match and also won the highest percentage of his service games than any other player on the tour.
He is already the highest ranked player in the history of team Canada, currently ranked at number 13.
Many felt that he would break the top 10 by now but at the age of 22 he still has time on his side.
Raonic claimed the award for ATP newcomer of the year award in 2011. He already boasts three ATP tour victories, with one in Chennai and successfully defending his title at San Jose in 2012.
Most recently, Raonic guided team Canada to Davis Cup victory over the top ranked Spanish team. It is victories like these that has seen the popularity of tennis in Canada rise steadily in recent years.
The towering Canadian boasts some high profile fans, with Andre Agassi and John McEnroe voicing their approval for him, with the latter even claiming that Raonic’s first serve might be the best first serve in men’s tennis history. High praise indeed.