The Fading Nadal Era…The Battle for the ‘Dirt-Coat Emperor’ Successor
“A new ’emperor of the clay court’ is being coronated.”
That’s how the New York Times described the start of the French Open tennis tournament, the second major of the year, on Aug. 22. Roland Garros (the French Open’s nickname) has been dominated for the past 18 years by Rafael Nadal (37, Spain), who has withdrawn from the tournament due to a hip injury. Nadal, who hasn’t missed a tournament in the 18 years since he made his debut in 2005, has won a career-high 14 titles (22 majors). It’s been said that Nadal is the next French Open. The French Open organization called it a “heartbreaking decision” and lamented Nadal’s absence.
As the “Nadal era” comes to an end, the French Open, which starts on the 28th, will feature many newcomers who dream of becoming Nadal’s successor. Among them, Carlos Alcaraz (20-World No. 1-Spain), dubbed the “next Nadal,” is considered the No. 0 favorite to win the tournament. He won the US Open last year at the age of 19, becoming the youngest player in men’s tennis history to reach the No. 1 ranking. He has won four titles this year. Novak Djokovic (36, World No. 3, Serbia) said on April 18: “A new generation has emerged. The tennis in Alcaraz is great.” Along with Nadal and Roger Federer (42-retired-Swiss), Djokovic is one of the “Big Three” who have dominated world tennis in the last two decades.
Danil Medvedev (27, World No. 2-Russia) has been on a roll as well. Medvedev won the Rome Open, a precursor to the French Open, on April 22. It was his first career clay court title. His clay-court game has improved significantly this season. With five wins on the tour this year, he has the most wins among his competitors. “My ‘love’ has been hard courts, but from now on I’ve decided to love clay courts,” Medvedev said after his victory at the Rome Open, indicating his excitement for the French Open.
Kasper Lourdes (25, World No. 4, Norway) is also looking to succeed Nadal. Lourdes is a graduate of the Rafael Nadal Academy in Mallorca, Spain. He has been training under Nadal’s tutelage since 2017. No wonder Nadal is his role model: like his mentor, he is particularly strong on clay. Last year, he finished runner-up in the French Open final, losing to Nadal. He is also nicknamed ‘The Dirt Man’.토토사이트
Another rising star is Denmark’s “God” Holger Luehne (20, world No. 6), who has won two straight matches against Djokovic. He defeated Djokovic in the quarterfinals at the Rome Open on April 18. He also defeated Djokovic in the final of the Paris Masters last November. His style of play is similar to Djokovic’s. He uses his quick feet and endurance to relentlessly harass his opponents. “I’ll have to ask him for tips in the future, he’s beaten me twice,” Djokovic said of Lune.
It will be interesting to see if the 36-year-old Djokovic can protect his veteran pride. Djokovic has been on a downward spiral since winning the Australian Open in January. A recurring right elbow injury has prevented him from hitting his signature powerful shots, but he’s not giving up. He’s on track to become the all-time major winner. He”s tied with Nadal for first place with 22 majors. With Federer retired and Nadal sidelined, Djokovic’s on-court wars with younger stars in their 20s are likely to be more intense than ever.