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The New Rivalry Tennis Needs Right Now

Jun 22nd 2024

It was only a few years ago when 20x Grand Slam winner Roger Federer was nearing the close of his remarkable career, and both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic were also heading in that same direction. As die-hard tennis enthusiasts, many of us looked at the men’s tennis side and asked, “Who’s going to finally knock these guys off?”

Recent Young Talent Hasn’t Pulled Through

The ATP Tour is ripe with talent, but not much consistency in winning…yet. The likes of Alexander Zverev, Stefano Tsitsipas, Nick Kyrgios, Andrey Rublev, Dominic Thiem, and Daniil Medvedev began to rise up as Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic started their journey down the back end of their careers. Yet, none of them have stolen a Grand Slam win, save for Medvedev, winning the US Open in 2021, defeating Djokovic.

During this window, the tennis landscape was also void of one element that had forced global tennis fans to the edge of their seats for two-plus decades—rivalries. For roughly twenty years, Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic birthed some of the biggest rivalries in sports. Until now, tennis seemed to be without any genuine rivalry intrigue.

Change Flows With The Tides

Sea tides always change, though, don’t they? So do the tides of sports. Tennis may be on the cusp of a brewing new rivalry. Two players have made significant noise on tour since the start of last year. Two players have accumulated four grand slam trophies since 2022—Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner.

Alcaraz made his presence known in 2022, notching his first Grand Slam title over Norway’s Casper Ruud at the US Open in Flushing Meadows. He followed that win with two more major victories at Wimbledon last summer and Roland Garros just six days ago. His win at the French Open awarded Alcaraz his third grand slam title and fourteenth career title overall.

Jannik Sinner has done very well for himself in his own right. Capturing his first major title earlier this year in Australia, Sinner is currently the world No.1, and by the way, he is playing this year, he should hold on to his top spot until at least Wimbledon in July. His total thirteen career titles is only one shy of Alcaraz. Head-to-head, the two top-ranked opponents have gone 5-4 in Alcaraz’s favor.

Rivalry And Respect Have Produced Awesome Play

Many have titled Alcaraz tennis’s best player right now, but could there be an argument for Sinner? Their recent five-set tilt in the French Open semis was a shining example of high-quality and exciting tennis. The two have yet to let the sport down when they clash. This evidence begs the question: Is this the next rivalry tennis fans have been waiting for?

Both Alcaraz and Sinner have expressed respect and admiration for each other’s games. While they are still young, both players have recognized that there is room to improve and get better: Alcaraz regarding his body and health to remain competitive, and Sinner regarding enhancing and bettering his serve.

Who Will Finish The Year On Top?

Just like there will never be another Michael Jordan, Lebron James, or Kobe Bryant, there will never be another like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, or Novak Djokovic. Their sheer dominance over the sport will likely not be witnessed again by a stand-alone core group of players. However, that doesn’t mean new rivalries can’t propel tennis into a new realm. By the looks of it, one of those rivalries is developing now.

Ranked No. 1 and 2, and with two more majors remaining this year, it’s almost a safe bet that Sinner and Alcaraz will meet on opposite sides of the net again in a race to be on top. Each player displayed their craft in different yet enticing styles of play, much to the tribute and applause of the crowd.