In 2017, fresh after another Wimbledon victory, Roger Federer stated that the “next (generation) hasn’t been strong enough to push all of us out really. So that has been helpful for us to stick around.”
When Roger Federer, the world’s best male tennis player of all time, needed two tie-breakers to beat virtual unknown Stefanos Tsitsipas at the recent Hopman Cup, fans sat up to take notice of the 20-year-old.
Federer drew applause, and plenty of laughter, in the after-match interview when he described the match was like playing against his son, emphasising the 17-year difference in their ages.
Importantly, from a tennis stat point of view, Federer didn’t break the Greek’s pounding serve once.
And he didn’t last night in the Australian Open fourth round as the Fed Express was derailed 6-7 7-6 7-5 7-6 by Tsitsipas.
There’s never been a famous Greek tennis player, but one is surfacing now.
The vital stat was that Federer earned 12 break points in the three-hour, 45-minute epic, but lost the lot.
So in 38 Tsitsipas service games over six tie-breaker-advantage sets, Roger Federer couldn’t crack one break point.
Last night, the combination of his frustration with an errant forehand and Tsitsipas’ constant pressure led to 55 unforced errors to the Greek’s 36.
When winning depends on the lottery of tie-breakers, history records it’s akin to Russian roulette.
And at 37 years young, it’s even harder for Roger Federer.
Tennis legend John McEnroe, commentating on Channel Nine, described the result as “A changing of the guard” – and the way the new generation is positioning itself in the rankings, he may well be right.
Germany’s Alexander Zverev is 21, stands 198cms, and is ranked fourth, while Dominic Thiem is the oldest of this new generation at 25, and ranked eighth.
Croatian Borna Coric is 22, and ranked 12, with two 190cm Russians, Karen Khachanov and Daniil Medvedev, ranked 11 and 19.
Like Tsitsipas, who is ranked 15th in the world, they all possess bazooka serves and heavy ground-strokes, and they keep relentlessly pounding opponents.
Tsitsipas and Zverev are the brightest prospects for future Slam honours, with Tsitsipas already a victor over Novak Djokovic and Zverev last year.
But when it comes to achievements, Stefanos Tsitsipas is very much in the shadow of the Fed Express.
Federer – 20.
Tsitsipas – zero.
Federer – 99.
Tsitsipas – one.
Federer – 1183 wins-261 losses (81.93 per cent).
Tsitsipas – 55-38 (59.14).
Federer – $120.5 million.
Tsitsipas – $2.9 million.
So that leaves only Serena Williams left of the 37-year-olds in the Australian Open draw.
Roger Federer couldn’t raise his record 20 Slams to 21, but can Serena lift her 24th Slam title to join Margaret Court as the greatest singles champion of all-time?
Don’t bet against it.