Tuesday, November 17, 2015

ATP World Tour Finals Field Far Too Predictable

The ATP World Tour Finals is supposed to provide an exciting and conclusive end to the ATP season, but once again excitement for the event seems to be greatly lacking.  Even the players contest matches looking like they'd rather be somewhere else, i.e. Wawrinka against Nadal and Nishikori against Djokovic.  While there aren't many easy solutions, it's becoming clear that some new blood is badly needed to add intrigue to the event.  Seeing the same players compete year after year has become far too predictable, and the event takes on the exact same feel as year's past.

The average age of this year's contestants is extremely high, as Nishikori is by far the youngest player at 25.  Everyone else is at least 28, and you have to go all the way down to 14 in the world to find anyone younger than 25.  While there's a lot of young talent on the way up, the current group of teens and young twenty-somethings is still at least a few years away from challenging for spots in this prestigious event.  

It's certainly not a problem on its own that there are several veteran superstars in the top 8 in the rankings.  The "Big Four's" dominance over the last decade has clearly been good for tennis, and they're some of the most marketable athletes in the world.  But seeing the same matchups over and over again simply takes a lot of the luster away.  While it used to be must see TV whenever there was a matchup amongst members of the "Big Four", it just hasn't had that same feel in recent years. 

What tennis could use is at least one or two legitimate young challengers to the "Big Four's" dominance.  Imagine how much more exciting it would be if there was some 20 year old who was pumped about being there and could actually stand toe-to-toe with the best players in the world.  This could be Kyrgios, Coric, Zverev or whomever else in a couple years, but for tennis' sake it's a shame there isn't someone like that ready to compete at this event now.    

Maybe in 5 years when the "Big Four's" reign is officially over we'll be longing for the days when there were four global superstars to headline the event.  It's hard to imagine the tour won't suffer at least a temporary decline in popularity when they're no long around.  But that doesn't mean we can't wish there was a little more variety at the top of the men's game.  Sports are often at their best when there's a newcomer trying to challenge a veteran who's attempting to hang on to power for a little bit longer (i.e. the Federer/Nadal dynamic from several years ago).  If men's tennis is lucky, it's a dynamic we'll soon get to experience again before several "more of the same" World Tour Finals pass us by.   

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