There has always been a conversation around ‘who is next player that could win a Major?’ This last six weeks has gone some way to giving us an answer.
This is the first time that we have seen anyone from the group of NextGen players – Kyrgios, Zverev, Coric – move up a level of intensity, ability and focus. We have seen these players get big wins here and there, but Kyrgios was able to do it consistently over the last month.
One thing that I have always said about Nick is that he needs to get fitter to be able to win a Major; to win seven matches, best of five sets, against the top players. This last six weeks is the first time that we have seen that he not only has the talent, but that he’s starting to build the whole package that he needs to do it.
I think this will give Nick momentum. He’ll roll into the clay confident and aggressive. He’s going to have to adapt his game a little for that surface, but put him on the grass and then the hard court and he becomes a real threat.
Outside of the top five (Murray, Djokovic, Wawrinka, Federer and Nadal), I now think that Nick is the most likely to win a Slam. Dimitrov is probably the other player who could, but he has a few demons where perhaps he thinks he should have won something already – his expectations are different. As you get older you get more cautious. Nick has no caution and that’s something he needs to hang on to.
If you look at his game style, he has the dynamic ability to change and win a match. Nishikori has it through his consistency and speed. Raonic has it, but he has been injured too much to be able to put him into that group this season. Even though he’s a big lad, Zverev is still building power, strength and physicality. Give him 18 months he’ll be where Nick is.
That’s exciting for tennis.
One of the things I see in the rivalry between Kyrgios and Zverev is a mutual respect in each other’s games, and where they are at in their careers. I don’t see that as much with the other NextGen players. Sascha loves tennis, he wants it and has done so for years. I think there’s a positive for Nick there: he creates an example that Nick can feed off and has a discipline that Nick knows he needs to match to keep on winning. I think it’s a race between them driven by mutual respect.
Will it be the next big tennis rivalry? Perhaps. You have to have the contrast in rivalries, something that brings people to support one or the other. This one has it through personalities and styles. You have a Russian-German who is confidently reserved – a little like Roger. And you have a rebel in Nick, a little more like Agassi. The issue for them is that they are following on from a generation that may be once in a lifetime.
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