Changing The Guard Of Ageing Tennis Superstars

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Written By Mohsen Salami

Grand Slam tennis tournaments are readying to welcome a new band of top players as the old guard reluctantly steps aside after years of domination.

Among the missing big names are giants of the sport, like Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Serena Williams.

Meanwhile, Rafa Nadal wants to play on but is missing from the French Open due to injury – and has announced he will retire in 2024.

So who’s missing – and just as importantly, who’s stepping up to take their place to fulfil their potential?

Gone But Not Forgotten

Some big names that have dominated the elite world tennis circuit for years recognise they have come to the end of the road and must consider giving up the game, including:

Roger Federer

Tennis has a living legend in Federer, who finally retired at the end of 2022 feted as probably the greatest player of all time.

Aged 41, the Swiss played over 1,500 matches, winning an astonishing 103 singles titles on the men’s Association of Tennis Players (ATP) circuit – the second most titles on the tour in the open era behind JImmy Connors haul of 109 championships. Federer won 20 grand slam titles, including Wimbledon a record eight times and five US Open titles.

His absence from the game leaves a huge hole to fill.

Ashleigh Bartley

Ashleigh Barty was one of the biggest names to hang up her racket in the past year. At only 25 years old she retired in tears as the world’s reigning women’s number one.

Australian Barty won 15 singles and 12 doubles titles on the World Tennis Association tour, including three singles and a doubles grand slam.

Serena Williams

Along with sister Venus, Williams has dominated women’s tennis for more than a decade. In her illustrious career, Serena won 23 grand slam titles and four Olympic gold medals, many with Venus as a doubles partner.

Williams is one of a glittering group of four chalking up grand slam singles victories in one season. She had a career total of 1,014 matches, winning 858 (85 per cent)

Rafa Nadal

Nadal missed the Australian Open due to injury and may have to sit out the French Open and Wimbledon. Of late, Nadal has slipped down the world rankings to 14th from vying with Roger Federer for the world number one and two slots for many years. Fading power on the court and stress on his body have led Nadal, 36, to announce he will retire next year.

The Spaniard has 22 grand slam singles wins, and four grand slam doubles titles. His favourite court is in Paris, where has scooped the French Open 14 times.

Andrew Murray

Sir Andy has won three grand slams – Wimbledon twice and the US Open. After a lengthy absence due to a hip replacement, Murray, 36, is still playing but is less agile and prone to injury, which is making him miss tournaments.

Retirement has not been slated, but Murray admits he is just ‘one big injury’ away from having to give up.

Novak Djokovic

Djokovich may have silky tennis skills, but he controversially has regular personality clashes with the game’s authorities. The current world number one has 22 grand slam titles and wants to add more.

At 36-years-old, he has limited time on his side and admits he may find almost continual touring punishing.

But there’s no sign of Djkovich leaving the game yet as he has his eye on setting more records.

The Rising Stars Of Tennis

A crop of fine young players are stepping up to fill the shoes of the world’s ageing tennis superstars.

The void the newcomers must fill is huge – Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have won more than 3,500 singles games, sweeping 51 grand slam matches and 285 titles with 80 per cent win rates. And that’s without adding in the achievements of Andy Murray (78 per cent win rate) and the phenomenal Williams sisters.

Here are some of the best-rated of-the-moment stars:

Emma Raducanu

At 21 years old, British star Emma Raducanu is the first qualifier to win a grand slam title in the modern era.

Her career is a little topsy-turvy. From the heights of winning the US Open, sitting at 150th in the world rankings, she soared to 10th on the back of the open win, then back down to 106th.

Raducanu’s major worry is the l;oss of game time due to persistent injuries.

Coco Gauff

A teenage sensation carving out a place in tennis history, although she has yet to win a grand slam title. Gauff is ranked 6th in the world after reaching the French Open final and the quarter finals of the US Open. Highly thought of, Gauff is about to step up to the tennis top table as a winning machine to rival the Williams sisters. She already has a 66 per cent win rate and continually improves.

Nick Kyrgios

Aussie tennis ace Nick Kyrgios already has a bad boy reputation. At 28 years old, he is coming into his prime after a decade treading the international circuit. His recent successes include reaching the Wimbledon final and winning the Australian Open doubles. Kyrgios lives life on the edge during games, with his hot temper often getting him into trouble.

Dominic Thiem

Thiem has already won the US Open and reached the finals of the Australian and French opens as he carries on his big game apprenticeship. The Austrian is aged 29, and fans feel his time has come as the big names of the past decade fade into the sunset. Unlike Kyrgios, Thiem is quiet and even-tempered.

Sascha Zverev

Sascha or Alex Zverev is a German tennis player who has ranked as high as 2nd in the ATP ratings. Zverev won gold at the Olympics and reached the US Open final in 2020. Zverev comes from a tennis family – his father was ranked 175th in the world, while his mother was rated 4th in Russia. They were offered tennis coaching jobs in Germany after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and moved with their family.

How Much Do Tennis Pros Make?

The rigours of constant travel and competition exact a punishing toll on the mind and body of professional tennis players. Raducanu is already plagued with injuries in her early 20s, while players in their 30s are on limited time.

Millions of dollars in prize money are at stake for those who can make the grade – Raducanu has already netted $4 million. Roger Federer is the highest earner banking $84 million.

But the shocking truth is the average earnings, not counting endorsements, were $113,000 a year for a player ranked between one and a thousand on the ATP listings.

Endorsements can add several noughts to a player’s earnings, but the biggest rewards go to the biggest names in the game.

Tennis Superstars FAQ

What is a grand slam title?

In tennis, a player wins a grand slam if they collect the four major international championships in a single season. The championships are the French, Australian, Wimbledon and US Opens

Who are the four players taking a clean sweep of grand slam singles titles?

The quartet who have registered four grand slam singles wins in one season are Serena Williams, Steffi Graf, Andre Agassi and Rafa Nadal.

Is Emma Raducanu British?

Raducanu was born in Toronto, Canada, to Romanian and Chinese parents. She was brought up in Bromley, Kent, from the age of two, holding dual British and Canadian citizenship.

What is the WTA?

The WTA or Women’s Tennis Association is the umbrella group for international women’s tennis. The WTA promotes tennis contests on a circuit that moves around the world’s major cities. About 1.650 women tennis players have joined the WTA. Rankings are decided from points awarded for progressing in competitions.

What is the ATP?

The ATP or Association of Tennis Professionals is the professional men’s tennis players group. Like the WTA, the ATP promotes international tennis contests and ranks players based on their achievements.