Tsitsipas triumph shows young guns are ready to rule
When Stefanos Tsitsipas was crowned ATP Finals champion on Sunday it felt like a watershed moment
Rafael Nadal will end the year as the world's top-ranked player and the "big three" retained their stranglehold on the Grand Slam titles, but when Stefanos Tsitsipas was crowned ATP Finals champion on Sunday it felt like a watershed moment.
"I believe I'm really close on being crowned a Grand Slam champion. I know these are strong words that I say, but I do feel like I belong to be there," the 21-year-old Greek boldly claimed after beating Dominic Thiem 6-7 (6/8) 6-2 7-6 (7/4).
There have been false dawns before of course. Germany's Alexander Zverev, like Greek Tsitsipas, was also 21 last year when he beat Novak Djokovic to win the season-ender in London.
Zverev could not back it up in this year's Slams, two of which were won by the 33-year-old Nadal and two by the 32-year-old Djokovic. But the past week in London has revealed a new fearlessness in the generation of 20 somethings expected to fill the void when they call it a day.
That may have disappointed some, but the quality and intensity of Sunday's final in which Tsitsipas beat Thiem to become the youngest champion at the season-ending tournament since 2001, had the O2 Arena audience enthralled.
"The question to be asked is where is the road going after Djokovic, Federer and Nadal and after this week I think we are in safe hands," former world number one Boris Becker said.
With the likes of Daniil Medvedev and fellow Russians Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev, Canadian duo Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov, Australia Alex De Minaur and Italians Matteo Berrettini and Jannik Sinner, not to mention German Zverev, gathering en masse, change is brewing.
Thiem, beaten in successive French Open finals by Nadal, believes next year could herald a new Grand Slam champion.
"I think that for sure we can do it next year. We are all playing great tennis," Thiem said.
"Sascha (Zverev), Stefanos, me, some other guys. I'm pretty sure that we're going to see a new and young Grand Slam champion next year."
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