In sporting terms, it’s difficult to predict where we will be in the next few decades or so. When you compare today’s sport with the different games played only 50 years or so ago, there have been wholesale changes with regards to how we play. The modern-day football is now so light compared to the cowhide of yesteryear that a strong gust of wind sees the crowd collectively duck whilst the wooden, termite-ridden tennis racquets of years gone by are unrecognizable when flaunted alongside the highly strung, carbon fiber weapons of the modern game. Tennis is of particular interest when it comes to the future of sport, mainly due to the fact that Federer and Nadal will eventually retire (we think) and someone will no doubt replace them. With that in mind, the pertinent question is, what does the future hold for tennis and who will it involve?
Time For More Technology?
It would be hard to argue that the introduction of Hawkeye and the challenge system has been nothing but a rip-roaring success for the sport and has virtually all but eliminated human error from the game. However, at last November’s Next Gen Finals, The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) trialed what is known as live electronic calling, which eliminates the need for line judges and leaves the umpire as the sole tennis official on the court-side.
The removal of line judges is likely to see fewer tennis tantrums on the court seeing as the players only really have the umpire to lambaste. John McEnroe played in the ATP Champions event back in February where the technology was used and joked in the New York Times that he “may have been a better player with no line judges to argue with” but that he would have been “more boring” to watch and therein lies the crux of the situation. Events such as Wimbledon are more than mere sporting competitions – the uniform nature and strict dress sense relating to the ball boys, ball girls and line judges is steeped in tradition and is as important as the tennis itself. Do we really want to see this fall by the wayside?
Who Is The Future?
The older, more ardent Tennis fans have seen legends come and go over the years and so when Federer and Nadal finally hang up their rackets, we’re confident that there will be players waiting in the wings to replace them. However, the rivalry between the two draws huge parallels with Ronaldo and Messi in the footballing arena in that we’re not just simply talking about two of the world’s top players. Instead, we are talking about sporting juggernauts, with sponsors ranging from Adidas to KFC and arguably the best players of all time in their respective games at a time when the game is at its most demanding.
Again, it’s very difficult to identify the heir apparent to either Federer or Nadal but 19 year old Dennis Shapovalov and 21 year old Alexander Zverev look to be two of the youngest and most capable candidates. Zverev is only the fifth active player to win to have won 3 or more masters titles, with the other four consisting of Tennis’ big four (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray) and after narrowly losing out in Cincinnati earlier in the month, Zverev will be looking ahead to the Australian open in January to try an mount a serious grand-slam assault. Zverev is 11/1 and fourth favourite with bookmakers Betway to take home the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup as of 23rd August and will eventually win multiple slams, and it’s more a case of when than if.
Tennis From Another Planet?
We may be getting a little ahead of ourselves here but recently, a NASA astronaut played the first ever game of tennis away from the surface of Earth. This got us thinking about the long-term future of the game and whether tennis is destined to be played on another planet when the Earth has finally had enough of us. The options that this throws up are endless – can you imagine a game of tennis where the gravity is four times as much as that of Earth, or even four times less? Who knows? Perhaps we’ll be playing intergalactic tournaments against creatures with more than two arms at the turn of the next century?
The Future Is Bright…For Now At Least
Whilst it will be difficult to mourn the loss of Federer and Nadal after they’ve called it a day, the sport has “lost” many great players over the years and has always come out on the right side. The standards that the “big four” have set in recent years have undoubtedly helped attract a whole new generation of fans to tennis and it’s now up to the powers that be to harness this popularity in order to take the game to the next level and secure the future of the game we know and love for years to come.