We knew this day would eventually come. Yet, we held onto hope. But as Rafael Nadal - the king of tennis when it came to clay courts – lost in 2021 and some of the most cherished names in tennis disappeared, here’s a look at the new guard.
The greatest ambassador of the sport of tennis, Roger Federer is no longer playing the poetic tennis as much as he used to. He has not retired but is injured. However, even as he skipped the last grand slam of the year – US Open – Roger Federer’s prominent star power and its absence does reflect the changing of the old guard. Federer, among the world’s most well-paid athletes and still a fan favourite, when on the court, isn’t done yet, but the power he once wielded as number one in a rivalry with Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray is no longer as ferocious as it once was. Irrespective of his absence from several prolific matches, he is the first billionaire in tennis, earning more than rivals Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal combined. Most of these earnings are related to his off-the-court sponsorship deals. His portfolio, according to Forbes, is “unmatched”. Of all the deals, the biggest one is with Japanese brand, Uniqlo with whom he has a 300 million dollars deal.
As the Big Four (Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Novok Djokovic) no longer present a combined threat as they once did with one player or more skipping one event or a concoction of the similar on more than a few occasions, this absence has been taken over by the likes of Alexander Zverev. The young tennis star, colloquially known as ‘Sasha' has picked up the mantel, beating unbeatable names such as Novok Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Stefanos Tsitsipas, the current world number three. Sasha has the following, and the talent to go beyond many others angling to be the ultimate champions of the game.
If men’s tennis has its greatest champion in Roger Federer, the same can be said about Serena Williams for women. Having won more slams than her male counterparts with the number 23, she has also won 14 double-slams with her sister Venus Williams. But even as she continues to play the game, Serena pulls crowds with her game even though it is no longer as ferocious as it used to be just a few years ago. Serena is the gold standard when it comes to a never giving up spirit, slam or no slam.
Hailing from Japan, world number three at present, Naomi Osaka is taking Asia forward, having won four grand slam titles. At just 23, she has managed to do so and could go on to become an arresting player on the courts. She has beaten the likes of Serena Williams – who is still the most well-known female tennis player – reminding us that she has mad skills. At present, she is the highest paid female athlete in the world. Off the court, Naomi Osaka is the latest ambassador of high-fashion luxury brand, Louis Vuitton.