When Roger Federer realized that there was nothing left to do, he decided to say goodbye to what made him immortal in time and space. A painful but inevitable decision. Now, a generation of phenomena that is preparing to say goodbye to tennis. It will happen sooner than we think. probably already 2024 will represent their professional horizon. Perhaps some of them will try to extend their shadow into 2025 but, frankly, seeing what is happening on the court, this will be the reality.
A goodbye that we never want to say, but which is part of life, in the natural order of things. Time passes on everyone and for everyone, no one is immune. Unfortunately and fortunately. A generation of tennis players who have been an important reference for all the current young players on the Tour and have written many pages in the history of this sport. A series of athletes, quite a few, who may have had their last experience in Australia as professionals.
Everything suggests that tennis must prepare for a great revolution after 2024, which will certainly shift and change some balances. In this, the Australian Open provided important confirmation of the new generation. Tennis has become an increasingly physical and tough game, especially when considering best-of-5 sets matches. Players, boys, aged 36 to 38 are starting to feel the weight of age and tiredness. Among the various clues that suggest this hypothesis is the Paris Olympics which almost always marks the completion of a cycle.
Rafael Nadal has had an exceptional 2022, with triumphs at the Australian Open at Roland Garros, also reaching the Wimbledon semi-final. The downside was represented by a 2023 full of injuries and physical problems, which made him miss the entire season and even doubt his return to the court.
The Brisbane International caused him new fatigue and the possibility of seeing him as a protagonist at the Melbourne Slam was lost. "I said it was possible that 2024 would be my last year. I repeat it but I can't confirm it 100% because I don't know," said the Spaniard.
His main goals, in which he intends to do well and perhaps gain other great satisfactions, are the two tournaments in program in Paris: the Roland Garros and the Olympic Games, always on the same red clay courts.
The farewell of a generation of players who changed tennis
"The young people are playing very well, it's very difficult to compete with them. I hope it's a few years but it can also be less. I'm ready for both." Gael Monfils is close, like Nadal, to the twilight of his professional career. A career, that of the Frenchman, which should and could have been even greater, considering the talent at his disposal.
"Is this your last year playing here? Let's hope not. Let's see how the year goes." With these words, Stan Wawrinka made it clear that he would still want to continue, but seeing him play at the Australian Open in 2025 is almost a utopia. A beautiful utopia, which remains what it is, for the moment.
The discussion also concerns Richard Gasquet, who spoke of retirement after leaving the top 100. "I remained there for almost 19 years. If it is not possible to climb back up, I will retire. I will not continue to fight in the Challengers."
And about Andy Murray? "It's a real possibility that this was the last time here. My family knows where I would like to end my career, but I haven't made a decision yet. I'll have to." These were the words of the Scot, following his elimination in the first round of the Australian Open. Worse still when Andy was eliminated at the ATP 250 in Montpellier by Benoit Paire.
Since the end of September the winner of 3 Slam titles has collected a very negative series of 7 defeats in 8 matches played. A delicate moment for Murray, no longer as competitive as in his triumphant old seasons, which culminated with a dream 2016. But the shadow of retirement from tennis hovers over him.
"Most people would walk away and give up in my situation right now. But my mind works differently. I won't give up. I will continue to fight and work to produce the performances I know I am capable of," he told.
Novak Djokovic is the last bastion of this generation of phenomena born between 1985 and 1987. And the defeat in the semi-finals of the Australian Open against Jannik Sinner should not deceive. As long as his body holds up, Djokovic will still be there competing with the youngsters, trying to be the best, once again.