Even when the rest of the Massive 4 keep collectively on court docket this yr, it’s clear that change is coming. (AP)
The emotion was written throughout Andy Murray’s face this week as he admitted his physique could not let him play on previous the Australian Open.
No matter whether or not it is available in Melbourne, at Wimbledon or elsewhere, the youngest member of the Massive 4 is ready to exit the sport.
The information has had a huge impact, with tributes flooding in from fellow gamers, coaches and followers.
The Scotsman’s determination additionally brings into stark reduction the realisation that what many name the golden period of world tennis is coming to an finish.
Time waits for no man, because the saying goes — and it’s conceivable (if unlikely proper now) that by the tip of 2019, we could have solely one in all Murray, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal nonetheless on tour.
The feelings spilled over for Andy Murray as he admitted to the media that hip ache will drive him to retire this yr. (AP: Mark Baker)
Within the wake of Murray’s announcement, Nadal confronted the press and acknowledged that nothing lasted ceaselessly, together with the careers of he and his well-known rivals.
“Right this moment it is him, tomorrow one other one. We’re not 20 anymore. Our era, everyone seems to be greater than 30,” Nadal stated.
Earlier than Murray’s hip damage, observers had lengthy thought-about the Spaniard an honest likelihood to be the primary to retire, given the influence on his physique of his bodily model of play.
By his personal admission, Nadal is underdone going into this yr’s Australian Open, having had ankle surgical procedure late final yr.
However whereas he might not be prone to win the primary main of 2019, it might take an excessive amount of bravery to write down off his probabilities of incomes “La Duodecima” [the twelfth] at Roland Garros in Could.
On clay, the Majorca native remains to be the grasp, and whereas the likes of Djokovic and Austria’s Dominic Thiem will give him a run for his cash, Paris is prone to stay Nadal’s area.
An unprecedented 12th French Open title would additional improve his tennis legacy, however relying on how his physique is feeling, it’d even immediate him to think about a retirement announcement of his personal.
Federer has some historical past in thoughts beginning in Melbourne. Six-time winner Djokovic is the favorite, however the Swiss celebrity can also be within the working to make it a report seven Australian Open males’s singles titles.
The Massive 4
If he manages to raise the Norman Brookes Problem Cup as soon as extra, it’s going to give him an enormous increase.
But when he falls brief, and particularly if Djokovic once more proves too robust, it could begin Federer, who turns 38 in August, desirous about his personal exit technique.
Might he determine to have one final spherical of the grand slams and bow out on the US Open — or along with his unbreakable hyperlinks with Wimbledon, would possibly the eight-time champion Federer decide to exit in entrance of adoring crowds at SW19?
In fact, neither of those choices could occur this yr — Federer and Nadal could dangle round into 2020, however this week’s information turns the highlight firmly on the rivals — and the questions are solely prone to develop.
What occurs subsequent?
Novak Djokovic has been on a roll since profitable his third Wimbledon title final July. (AP/Pool: Neil Corridor)
If that is the yr when the golden era begins to skinny, nevertheless, then what occurs to the boys’s sport in tennis, which has largely revolved round these 4 males for a decade or extra?
The most certainly participant within the group to maintain on rolling is Djokovic. He’s solely per week youthful than Murray, however his physique is in much better form.
His court docket motion and shot placement remains to be elite, and after getting back from an inexplicable, close to two-year droop he surged again at Wimbledon 2018 and has been near unstoppable since.
Success at Melbourne Park would put him one win off the second non-calendar grand slam of his profession, and add to his present aura of dominance.
On a tour missing Murray and probably Nadal and/or Federer, Djokovic would little doubt attempt to money in over the subsequent two years and if his physique and sport keep stable, he has the potential to get near Federer’s 20 titles.
This, in fact, is much from the one possibility. Maybe Djokovic would lose a few of his edge with the absence of his rivalry with Nadal and Federer.
Stefanos Tsitsipas (left) and Alexander Zverev are among the many younger weapons hoping to win a serious title in 2019. (AP)
The opposite risk is that the much-heralded subsequent era takes a step up.
No much less a determine than John McEnroe has already tipped a brand new title to win this yr’s Australian Open.
The likes of Germany’s Alexander Zverev, Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas, Russia’s Karen Khachanov and Daniil Medvedev, Croatia’s Borna Coric and Canada’s Denis Shapovalov are all seen as potential title winners in coming years.
Some might be able to make their breakthrough even sooner. None of those gamers have but made a grand slam occasion semi-final, but when a few the Massive 4 are absent from the majors, that opens up alternatives.
Come what may, 2019 shapes as a watershed yr in tennis historical past. Even when the rest of the Massive 4 keep collectively on court docket this yr, it’s clear that change is coming.
Do not be too shocked if it occurs shortly.