A few weeks ago, history was made in the ATP rankings when the top five players were all age 30 or older. These players have shown no signs of slowing down at all. The top four have reach the Roland Garros quarterfinal, with the one other Roger Federer sitting it out after winning the season’s first Major in Melbourne.
Stan Wawrinka is mostly known as the player who is close to the “big 4” but not quite a part of the legendary group. As a player, he brings his best game to Majors while being very inconsistent otherwise during the season. He has also shown an incredible jump late in his career, winning his first Major at age 28, then tacking on two more. Before winning the Australian Open in 2014, he had never held a ranking higher than #8. Even with his inconsistencies, he is putting together a stellar year at age 32. He made the semis in Melbourne and the Indian Wells final, losing both to Federer, and won the title in Geneva. Wawrinka has followed an odd path in peaking at an old age but still has not begun to slow down.
Novak Djokovic recently turned 30, and although his play has fallen off from last year, is still ranked second in the world. After an up and down hard court season, he seems to have found his groove. He reach the Rome final, crushing Dominic Thiem on the way there. Aside from a difficult match with young gun Diego Schwartzman, Djokovic has not lost another set at this tournament. Even given his disappointment, he has made the final of 3 of the last 5 majors and is back in the quarterfinals at the French. He has dropped off from where he was at this time last year, but remains a serious contender in every tournament he plays in, impressive at age 30 and counting.
Andy Murray has long been the “lost” member of this generation. With only three majors to his name, compared to double digits for each of the other three of the “Big Four,” he always seemed a step below. However with the, temporary decline in Federer and Rafael Nadal, has reach world #1. Murray has seen a larger drop off than Djokovic this season, but still owns a sizeable lead at the top. As of now itt seems that Federer or Nadal will be the #1 at year’s end (sorry I cannot believe I am writing that), but there is plenty of tennis to play. Murray will remain #1 for a while, an impressive feat considering the age he achieved this spot and all the time he spent in the shadows.
No article about the men’s French Open is complete without mentioning the man who owns nine trophies here, Rafael Nadal. Nadal is the same age as Djokovic and Murray but seems much older. He rose to the top as a teenager so has been playing top tennis for over a decade, and wrist and knee injuries over the years have taken their toll on him. What he is accomplishing right now is truly incredible. Not only seeming like a 35 year old with his injuries, but overcoming them to not only play but perform at a level that brings tennis fans back to 2009. Nadal is the absolute favorite to win the French, and with a title will also gain a massive points lead in 2017. The last couple of seasons, it appeared Nadal’s age and style of play had caught up to him. However, he has had a complete resurgence and is playing at not only a high level, but the legendary one that allows him to be the greatest clay court player ever.
This older generation still battling provides an interesting storyline for the quarterfinal, as all four of the aforementioned players play someone under 30. Two of those players, Dominic Thiem and Pablo Carreno Busta, are under 26. This quarterfinal will be the first of a likely recurring battle between the still dominant older generation and the next generation of stars that is fighting to take their spot at the top.
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