Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have been told that it’s time for new faces to take centre stage ahead of Carlos Alcaraz and Casper Ruud’s US Open final battle. The 19 and 23-year-olds will not only face off for their maiden Grand Slam title, but the winner will also become the new world No 1, marking a new generation of top tennis stars.
Alcaraz and Ruud’s US Open showdown will mark the first time in ATP history that a Grand Slam final will also determine a brand new world No 1. The Spaniard has enjoyed a breakout season, winning four titles and breaking the top five of the rankings after starting the season at No 32, while Ruud reached his maiden Grand Slam final earlier this year at the French Open.
It marks the first Major final in two years without Federer, Nadal or Djokovic playing for the title, after Dominic Thiem beat Alexander Zverev in the 2020 US Open final when the Swiss star and world No 3 did not compete, and the Serb was disqualified in the fourth round. And retired pro Mats Wilander has now claimed that it marks a “changing of the guard” as he said it was time to “get the old guys out of here”.
“It definitely shows that there’s a changing of the guard going on, and obviously some of it has to do with age – for Roger Federer,” the seven-time Grand Slam champion told Eurosport. “Some of it has to do with Rafa not playing enough matches to be ready, and of course, a lot of it has to do with the fact Novak Djokovic wasn’t allowed to come because he’s not vaccinated.”
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With the multi-Grand Slam champions’ reasons for not reaching the final aside, Wilander was excited to usher in a new era of tennis and leave the Big Three’s dominance in the past as he waved them off with a brutal comment. He continued: “But at the same time, the depth in the men’s game is unbelievable.
“There are new faces, and you know me – I love to see new faces. I’m always like ‘get the old guys out of here! Goodbye. You’ve done enough’.” Meanwhile Alex Corretja – the compatriot of both Nadal and Alcaraz – noted that the younger generation still wouldn’t be able to reach the heights of the Big Three and wasn’t writing off Djokovic and Nadal just yet.
“They are showing that they’re ready to take the spot,” the former world No 2 said of Alcaraz and Ruud’s generation. “I’m sure that we’re still going to have Djokovic whenever he can play, and Rafa next year, for sure he’s going to be still fighting for the Slams. It’s good to see that, little by little, they’re advancing and growing.”
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“Of course, you’re going to still have Medvedev, Tsitsipas and Zverev next year who are going to be extremely motivated. We will also have Nick Kyrgios in Australia as well. So more gates are opening for many other players – it was locked because of Novak, Roger and Rafa and sometimes Andy Murray.”
While Corretja thought the Grand Slams had opened up to more players, he added: “I think it’s going to be very interesting and very unpredictable because we will have players that they will think they are going to be good, but I don’t think that they are going to be superior than the Big Three used to be.”