LONDON — A few days into his ultimate ATP Finals, Chris Kermode, the outgoing CEO and chairman of the ATP Excursion, used to be requested about his religion one day of the game.

“I’ve all the time [said] and I really imply this, the sport will lift on when Roger [Federer], Rafa [Nadal], Novak [Djokovic] and Andy [Murray] all go away the sport,” Kermode mentioned.

“They have got performed an immense section and are patently going to be overlooked, however the recreation will live to tell the tale and the ability that is coming thru is improbable.”

That ability used to be absolutely on display on Sunday when Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece beat Austrian Dominic Thiem 6-7, 6-2, 7-6 to win the ATP Finals. 3 years in the past, Tsitipas used to be a hitting spouse for Thiem within the season-ending tournament. Having crushed Federer on Saturday, on Sunday Tsitsipas had the group making a song his identify. At 21, Tsitsipas’ victory in his match debut makes him the youngest ATP Finals champion since Lleyton Hewitt in 2001. If he maintains this type of momentum, the rest is conceivable.

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It must pass with out pronouncing that any evaluate of the way forward for the boys’s recreation must be countered via a have a look at the tip of the 12 months ATP ratings. Nadal ended up on best for the 5th time in his profession, becoming a member of Djokovic (No. 2) and Federer (No. 3) on that mark. Between them, the 3 males have crowned the ratings 15 occasions previously 16 years and the one time one among them they did not, the opposite member of the Giant 4 — Murray — crowned the pile.

At the same time as they head into their mid-to-late 30s — Federer is 38, Nadal 33 and Djokovic 32 — they’ve endured to dominate the largest tournaments. Nadal and Djokovic gained two Grand Slams apiece in 2019, and Federer used to be some extent clear of profitable any other Slam.

There were a lot of false dawns through the years. Grigor Dimitrov’s win in London in 2017 would possibly were a catalyst for the Bulgarian to win a Grand Slam however he struggled within the two years to practice. Alexander Zverev is in higher form, having gained in London 12 months in the past after which, after a tricky begin to 2019, certified for the eight-man tournament and reached the final 4.

After going out on the semifinal level in London, Federer mentioned it felt as though the younger gamers had been nearer than ever to breaking thru.

“I simply assume they [the Next Gen players] have confirmed their level this 12 months via qualifying for the [ATP] Finals and likewise now no less than one among them making it to the finals,” Federer mentioned.

“However then I have a look at the listing of who completed global No. 1, who has been global No. 1 these kind of years, and it is simply loopy that it is all the time one among us. However we aren’t getting any more youthful. So [the] probabilities [of the younger players breaking through] build up no longer as a result of we’re getting worse however as a result of they’re getting higher, I imagine.”

At 21, Stefanos Tsitsipas’ ATP Finals victory makes him the youngest match champion since Lleyton Hewitt in 2001. Julian Finney/Getty Pictures

When Kermode first presented the Subsequent Gen Finals for the highest 8 under-21 gamers in 2017, he was hoping to present one of the brightest younger gamers slightly of a focus to spice up their profile and lend a hand inform their tales.

What the Subsequent Gen Finals have in reality proven, even though, is how excellent this era of gamers appear to be. Hyeon Chung, the winner in that first 12 months, made the semifinals of the Australian Open two months later. And had it no longer been for damage, he would possibly have risen additional. Tsitsipas, the 2018 winner, additionally made the semis in Australia and has now gained the ATP Finals. Jannik Sinner, the Italian who gained in 2019, may well be even higher than the lot.

Daniil Medvedev, the Russian, reached six finals in a row this summer season, together with the USA Open ultimate, whilst Thiem has made the overall of Roland Garros in every of the previous two years. Tsitsipas and Thiem have each crushed every of Nadal, Djokovic and Federer in 2019; Zverev beat Nadal in London and likewise owns a win over Federer this 12 months whilst Medvedev beat Djokovic two times in 2019.

Zverev, for one, believes issues are about to switch.

“I feel subsequent 12 months will carry a brand new Grand Slam champion,” he mentioned. “We will see who that will probably be, as a result of I feel the younger guys are enjoying improbable tennis. It may be Daniil, it may be Stefanos, it may be Dominic. I am within the combine, as neatly, I’m hoping. We will see what subsequent 12 months brings. However I feel for the younger guys, it’ll be an exhilarating 12 months.”

Sunday used to be Tsitsipas’ 78th fit of the 12 months, a large number of miles within the legs for a tender participant. Boris Becker, the previous global No. 1 and winner of six Grand Slams, believes Tsitsipas is the actual deal, if he can also be sensible about his agenda.

Commentating for BBC Recreation, Becker mentioned: “The name of the game of the luck of Federer and Nadal or even Djokovic is scheduling. They understand how to top. For my part, the more youthful gamers play an excessive amount of. However at his age it’s important to play extra suits to be told extra. Now he is arrived, he will need to be extra cautious together with his agenda subsequent 12 months.”

Tsitsipas isn’t wanting self assurance and his self-belief, coupled together with his ability and paintings charge will no doubt lift him a ways. With Medvedev, Zverev, Thiem, Matteo Berrettini (who additionally certified for London), after which the likes of Sinner, Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime shut at the back of, the following era seems vibrant.

Djokovic will no doubt be sturdy once more in 2020, Nadal, too, and Federer continues to be a Grand Slam contender, as he confirmed at Wimbledon. However for the primary time in a decade and a part, the vacation spot of the Grand Slam titles is unsure. Tsitsipas mentioned he feels he’s “in reality shut [to] being topped a Grand Slam champion” however is aware of that beating Nadal, Djokovic and Federer over 5 units is the largest problem of all.

“Any person wishes … to defeat them early rounds as a result of after they get deep in a match, they generally tend … to recover and play higher, really feel higher,” he mentioned. “It [best-of-five sets] simply provides them extra probabilities to stick within the fit. I feel if issues had been best-of-three, it might were a lot more other.

“They have got been sharing what number of Grand Slams? I have no idea. 60 one thing? And for us, for the younger guys, it is all about time. I have no idea. We can have to overcome them or look ahead to them.”

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