Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps the 2019 Rolex Shanghai Masters.
The kids are all right.
If you’re the type to always see the glass half full, then that’ll be your conclusion from what unfolded this past week at the Shanghai Rolex Masters.
You’ll see that Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev, Matteo Berettini and Stefanos Tsitsipas, aged 23, 22, 23 and 21 years old respectively, made it to the final four of this Masters 1000 and did so by competing against and defeating the very best players in the world. In other words, you’ll see that they were the best by beating the best.
But that’s not all. In the Shanghai final, it’s Medvedev who emerged victorious by defeating Zverev by the score of 6-4 and 6-1. In the process, he continued his scorching run, one that started all the way back to the start of the hard court season in August. Consider that the Russian has made three finals and conquered three titles at all six events he’s competed in since Wimbledon, and it’s pretty clear that we can’t just say that the 23-year-old is merely hot. Medvedev, now No. 3 in the Race to London, is apparently quite the formidable opponent—and it’s apparent that this isn’t about to change.
Also fairly apparent: he very could be the Player of the Year if he closes the year strong and once it’s all said and done?
Obviously hypothetical, but if you change just a few points in the Wimbledon and US Open finals this year, Daniil Medvedev is the best player this year.
— Jase (@Certinfy) October 13, 2019
But more than about Medvedev, if you see the glass half full this Shanghai Masters was validation for your belief in the next generation. If you see the glass half full, that was the main conclusion from this latest Masters 1000: you see youngsters competing on the brightest stage against Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, and you see that they emerged victorious. In this sense, Medvedev’s win was his but also a win for the next group of upcoming youngsters knocking on the door of tennis royalty.
Players to reach the final of Canada, Cincinnati, the US Open and Shanghai in the same year:
Novak Djokovic (2012, 2015)
Danill Medvedev (2019)
— Nick Nemeroff (@NNemeroff) October 13, 2019
Medvedev beats Zverev 64 61 to win Shanghai.
He joins a short list, outside the Big Four, to win back-to-back Masters in the last 20 years in the same season:
— Ravi Ubha (@raviubha) October 13, 2019
But maybe this isn’t what you’re thinking, is it? Because remember that this is the year 2019, where a literal man child sitting in the White House and at the helm of the biggest world power? In 2019, there is no glass half full, the glass is forever empty and emptying itself.
If you see the glass half full, well then the Shanghai Masters tells an entirely different story. At its core, it’s a story about a young player coming his own over the latter half of a tennis season but that’s really all it is: Medvedev is his own man and isn’t a stand-in for an entire group of young players.
If you see the glass half full, you see the same three players atop the rankings, the same trio that has dominated men’s tennis for a decade and a half and still doing so in 2019. You see the same three players who won the previous 12 Grand Slam tournaments and, remember, you still judge a player’s legacy by how well they have performed at the four biggest events in the world. In this case, you say that the Zverev’s, the Tsitsipas’ and the Shapovalov’s can step up all they want at the lesser events, but they are still not competing on the same plane as Rafael Nadal, Djokovic or Federer.
If your glass is half full, then you’ll believe that the aforementioned trio has established a standard over the previous 15 years—a standard that no one else has managed to reach. You’ll believe that the bar is set high and that the youngsters still aren’t clearing it.
If you see the glass half full, you see that we’re entering a new decade and that nothing has changed. You see that everything in tennis still runs through the same three players.
And through Medvedev, sure.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG