Paul Newman: Rising stars are forcing the Fab Four to raise their game

This is the year when the next generation have finally made their breakthrough


It has been a long time coming, but the world order at the top of men’s tennis is changing at last. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have had a grip on the sport’s biggest prizes for nearly 10 years, but 2014 is beginning to look like the year when the next generation finally made their breakthrough.

Until very recently the domination of the Fab Four had been remarkable. Thirty-four Grand Slam tournaments were played between the Australian Opens of 2005 and 2014 and 33 of them were won by Federer, Nadal, Djokovic or Murray, with Juan Martin del Potro’s 2009 US Open triumph the only exception.

Stan Wawrinka, who is now the world No 3, muscled into the top group with his victory at the Australian Open earlier this year. Although Nadal completed his customary fortnight of glory at the French Open last month, there have been plenty of signs since the start of the year that we are witnessing a changing of the guard — which should be no surprise given that Federer is 32, Nadal 28 and Djokovic and Murray both 27.

Since January Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori and Ernests Gulbis, aged 23, 24 and 25 respectively, have all broken into the world’s top 10 for the first time. Grigor Dimitrov, aged 23, will be in the top 10 next week and has already won four titles in the last 12 months. Gulbis had his best run at a Grand Slam tournament when he reached the semi-finals of the recent French Open, while Raonic and Dimitrov have enjoyed their best runs at this Wimbledon.

It has taken time for the generation just behind Nadal, Djokovic and Murray to make their mark, but Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, representing the latest wave of new talent, is threatening to reach the top by a much quicker route. Kyrgios is only 19, while his fellow countryman, 18-year-old Thanasi Kokkinakis, is said by some to be an even greater talent.

If 21-year-old Bernard Tomic could finally realise the promise that he showed with his run to the quarter-finals here three years ago, there could be talk of a new generation of great Australian players.

While the Fab Four have no intention of going anywhere in the immediate future – and Nadal, Djokovic and Murray should still be in their prime for a good year or two yet – the likelihood is that they will be pushed harder and harder by the next generation.

When Nadal was asked why he had struggled to win a match at the Rome Masters two months ago he replied: “Get used to it. With the years that’s the normal thing. Everyone suffers. It’s part of sport. It’s part of everyone’s career.”

Murray believes that the only way he will stay at the top is to keep improving. “I need to have a think about things, what are the things I need to improve, and get myself in better shape and work even harder, because everyone’s starting to get better,” he said after his quarter-final defeat to Dimitrov.

“The younger guys are now obviously becoming more mature and improving all the time. I need to make some improvements to my game.”

He added: “If you play against a player like a Kyrgios or Dimitrov or Raonic and you don’t play very well, it’s tough to win those matches now, whereas before maybe when they were younger and a bit inexperienced you could still find ways to come through them. But now that they’re getting more experience and improving, it’s tough to do that.”

Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk