For years Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have ruled the roost. Many times we have looked to the next generation of players and tried to predict which ones would usurp the Big 4 from their perches. Although Djokovic certainly looks unstoppable at the head of the rankings, the same cannot be said for the other 3. This article will look at the who are the most likely candidates to make to become the new Big 4.
A divisive character in the tennis world but one thing that we cannot deny is that this guy can play tennis. Kyrgios has a big serve, monster booming groundstrokes and backs it up with explosive movement for such a big guy. This guy can definitely make the top of the mens game but the biggest barrier in his way is likely to be his own mentality. Seemingly from nowhere Kyrgios can throw away a positive position in a match, falling out with umpires, lines judges and swearing on TV. The guy is a walking disaster and really needs to develop a better oncourt manner. Some would said say that it is refreshing to have a bad boy on tour, he makes headlines for the wrong reasons.
My bet is that Kyrgios will make the top 10 but his poor attitude will be his downfall and he has shown little inclination of changing his behaviour or realising his responsibilities as a tennis player to younger kids.
A friend recommended I take a look at the young Austrian a few years back. He was cock a hoop about his overall play especially his single handed backhand . 18 months have come and gone and the Austrian is finally beginning to make waves on the tour. February belonged to Thiem on the tour as he picked up a title in Buenos Aires in a field which featured Ferrer and Nadal and lifted the Acapulco ATP 500 event on the hard court defeating big Bernie from Australia.
Thiem seems to have it all, he works incredibly hard on court and does not make many errors at all. At times I gasp at some of his shot making and the awareness that he has whilst under the most intense pressure. Further appearances in Masters and grand slam quarter finals and better will hoist his profile and confidence further. Importantly he also seems to have a steady head on his shoulders and has avoided any high profile mid match meltdowns or PR disasters. He can certainly make the top 10 by the end of the year. In time he will be a top 5 player.
Goffin seems to have been around for years now but he is actually only 22. The Belgian may be diminutive in size but he can boss even the most fierce and powerful players on the tour. He is playing the tennis of his career at the moment as he faired extremely well in the March Sunshine Double in the USA. Some of his play against Giles Simon oozed class and confidence as he recovered from a set down to defeat the Frenchman. He can at times play games with opponents such is the extent of his shot making capabilities. What Goffin may lack in stature he more than makes up for in court craft. Many commentators rate Goffin but would not include him in the bracket of being part of the next generation big 4. I disagree he is an all courter, can play effectively on all surfaces and most importantly has a steady head on his shoulder.
There are parallels with the career of Milos Raonic and Novak Djokovic. I saw Djokovic constantly play second fiddle to Roger Federer for many years and who can forget that tweener under the lights on Ashe. I just assumed that the status quo would remain. But as we have seen Novak Djokovic has improved his level immensely and is now without question the best player in the world. I have seen similar results from Raonic, showing great promise but ultimately failing at the final hurdle. This year with Carlos Moya a former Spanish Davis Cup player and captain Raonic seems like a more rounded complete player. He is changed his serve dominated game to a more all court net rushing game. He played exceptionally well to make the final of Indian Wells but then we were reminded just how much more he has to go to get to the summit of the game as he was demolished by Novak Djokovic.
Raonic has an incredible mental game, he shows a poker face no matter what the situation on court and always never gives his opponents anything to work with. With his serve and improving backhand, coupled with his willingness to get to the net to actually win the point, Novak Djokovic must watch out, Raonic will only get better.
Nishikori seems to have been around for ages. His best grand slam performance came in the 2014 US Open final but he came up short against Marin Cilic. First and foremost the guy is a gentleman, another ambassador for the sport. His forehand is exceptional and his backhand is solid. He can pull the most explosive shot out of nowhere and leave opponents astounded. At 26 he is a lot older than Kyrgios or Thiem but with wins over Nadal, Federer and Murray he is certainly is in prime position.
Time will tell who really earn the right to take on the mantle from the current top 4. If Raonic can stay injury free and courts do not change radically then he has all the tools and the mental game to make the top of the game. The question will be when. Kyrgios has a similar game but moves a lot better but his big weakness being is his mental game. Goffin and Thiem are the tennis purists, they construct fantastic points and although may not have the power of Kyrgios or Raonic they certainly can outthink them on court. Nishikori is the unknown, has at 26 he reached his peak? Will he be physically tough enough to win 7 matches in a row in a grand slam. There is a lot of tennis to be played this season. 2016 will certainly go a long way to revealing who will be the #nextgen