With Djokovic, Murray, Wawrinka, Nishikori and Raonic all missing the US Open with injuries, and Nadal and Federer in the same half, it’s not surprising that there’s only one superstar playing in the US Open men’s final. Kevin Anderson managed to take advantage of an open draw and blast his way into the finals, but the real question is if we’re headed for an era of the Kevin Anderson’s of the world making more major finals, continued Big-Four/Five dominance, or the “next gen” finally stepping up where it counts.
Even if Djokovic, Murray and Wawrinka come back strong in 2018 and Federer continues to play at a high level, it’s looking more and more likely that they won’t maintain a stranglehold on grand slam finals spots going forward. Counting them out is rarely wise, and they may all win more majors. But with more early losses likely to happen as they enter or proceed through their thirties, more opportunities should arise for the rest of the tour.
The governing bodies of men’s tennis surely hope it’s the “next gen” who steps up and fills the void, but it seems just as likely we could be headed for a few years of less marketable middle-upper aged veterans like Kevin Anderson, Sam Querrey, Pablo Carreno-Busta, David Goffin and others going deep into the big events. This may not be good for tv ratings, but it’s something fans and the tour itself should prepare for before the next gen is truly ready to push everyone else out.
Alexander Zverev, Nick Kyrgios, Dominic Thiem and others have all made good progress in the last couple of years, but with only two grand slam semifinals between them in their careers (Thiem at the French) it might be too soon to pencil them into multiple grand slam finals in 2018. And while the “generation” below them may be every bit as good down the road (i.e. Shapavalov, Auger-Alliassime, Tiafoe, Rublev amongst other talented teenagers), don’t expect them to consistently go deep at majors for 3-4 more years.
Many tennis fans may not be happy, but there very well may be more “Kevin Andersons” popping up in grand slam finals over the next couple of years. While it will certainly take some getting used to, after being spoiled for so long with only legends fighting for grand slam titles, it might even start to feel a bit refreshing to have the occasional mere mortal to root for.