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When will next generation of tennis overtake the Big Three?

MIAMI (AP) – The next generation of males’s tennis stays a jumble of unrealized potential.

With Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer skipping the Miami Open, the event was anticipated to convey the recreation’s new faces into sharper focus. Instead, the outlook stays fuzzy as the clay season begins.

Sunday’s match between No. 37-ranked Hubert Hurkacz and No. 31 Jannik Sinner was the first ATP Masters 1000 remaining since 2003 with two gamers ranked exterior the high 30. Hurkacz turned the lowest-ranked champion in the ATP’s top-level sequence since 2005.

Meanwhile, for gamers touted as future Grand Slam champions, Miami represented a chance missed. Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev did not make it even to the semifinals.

“With the Big Three absent, I think all the NextGen guys were trying their best to play their best game, to compete as hard as they can,” Hurkacz stated. “Hopefully the spectators enjoyed it.”

But what ought to followers make of it? Twenty-somethings have been attempting to overtake the Big Three for years, and no front-runner for 2021 emerged in Miami.

Medvedev, seeded No. 1 at a Masters 1000 occasion for the first time, was upset in the fourth spherical by Roberto Bautista Agut. No. 2 Tsitsipas exited in the similar spherical with a loss to Hurkacz.

“I felt like it was my opportunity,” Tsitsipas stated. “There was more space for me to show something greater.”

No. 3 Zverev flopped worst of all, double-faulting 3 times on break level in a loss to No. 83-ranked Emil Ruusuvuori. No. 4 Andrey Rublev, a Russian who leads the tour with 20 wins this yr, reached the semifinals earlier than Hurkacz upset him.

This all got here after Nadal and Federer withdrew earlier than the event began as a consequence of accidents, whereas Djokovic determined to remain dwelling in Serbia amid the pandemic.

For Hurkacz, 24, the title is by far the largest of his profession, and the first for a Polish participant in a Masters 1000 occasion. But he gained’t be amongst the favorites at the French Open.

In sum, no 20-something seems poised to wrest the mantle from the 30-somethings who’ve dominated the sport for therefore lengthy. Dominic Thiem gained his first main title at the U.S. Open in September, however he’s simply 5-4 this yr and skipped Miami.

“The next generation still has to show they can beat the Big Three,” Sinner said. “The next generation is not ready yet to win against them consistently. At some point there will be the moment; I don’t know when. It can be two years or five years, I don’t know. But the moment will come.”

Perhaps Grand Slam greatness will skip a generation, and it will be someone now a teenager who supplants the Big Three. Sinner, a 19-year-old baseline basher from Italy, took a giant leap in Miami, just his third Masters 1000 event.

Also making a splash was unseeded 20-year-old American Sebastian Korda, who reached the quarterfinals before losing to Rublev. Korda, the son of former Australian Open champion Petr Korda, is widely considered the best hope to end an 18-year drought in major titles for U.S. men.

He sounds more patient than some fans.

“My parents are super big on baby steps,” Korda said. “You can play tennis for so long if you stay healthy – for 15-plus years. Guys now are playing until 40; it’s incredible. There are a lot of years ahead of me.

“I’ll always put my head down and keep working, and hopefully one day I could achieve something like what my dad achieved.”

Korda and Sinner have considerable flair and star appeal, as do Medvedev, Tsitsipas, Zverev and Rublev.

“The future of tennis looks great, because the generation is changing,” Rublev said. “The NextGen players, they are different. They look different compared with previous ones. I think they have charisma.”

Charisma, yes, but not yet many trophies.

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More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Follow Steven Wine on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Steve_Wine

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