Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas, the supposed next generation of men’s tennis, were shock casualties in the first round at Wimbledon.
Novak Djokovic’s potential path to the final looks even clearer after the young guns, both in the defending champion’s half of the draw, fired blanks.
Sixth seed Zverev went down in four sets to qualifier Jiri Vesely, the world number 124.
The 22-year-old slipped at a crucial moment to give away two match points, and then netted the first as Czech Vesely celebrated a surprise 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 triumph.
Zverev, who has endured a poor year so far, admitted his confidence has taken a battering and alluded to issues off the court.
“When I get to the important moments – and I had five or six break points in the fourth set alone – I can’t take any of those,” he said.
“I’m down one break point myself and he takes it immediately, where I miss an easy volley. I didn’t lose this match on tennis. It’s just my confidence is below zero right now.
“The last two days, I would say (were) very rough for me personally. I’m not going to get into details, but I’m just saying. I have to fix that to play well on the court.”
Around 20 minutes later Tsitsipas, having saved two match points in the fourth set, succumbed to the third as he was turfed out 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (8), 6-3 by Italian Thomas Fabbiano.
Zverev and Tsitsipas are supposedly at the head of the pack attempting to chase down Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. On this evidence the big three are still a long way in the lead.
Tsitsipas said: “We’ve seen players my age, many years ago – I would like to name Rafa, Roger – seemed very mature and professional what they were doing. They had consistency from a young age. They always did well, tournament by tournament, without major drops or inconsistency.
“Something that we as the Next Gen players lack, including myself, is this consistency week by week. It’s a week-by-week problem basically, that we cannot adjust to that.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
Andy Murray is playing doubles at Wimbledon this year, while Ashleigh Barty is looking for back-to-back grand-slam titles.
Here are five talking points ahead of the tournament at SW19.
Changing of the guard overdue
Since Lleyton Hewitt’s win in 2002, the subsequent 16 men’s singles titles have been won by either Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Andy Murray, and it is not a stranglehold which looks likely to end this year. Murray may be missing but the ‘big three’ remain the ones to beat. The younger generation of Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Denis Shapovalov, Karen Khachanov, and Daniil Medvedev need to raise their game or watch another familiar face lift the trophy on July 14.
Murray’s back, but not as we know him
When Murray broke down in tears at the Australian Open, fearing his career was close to being ended through injury, the chances of seeing the two-time Wimbledon champion back at the All England Club looked remote to say the least. But five months and one hip operation later, Murray will be competing in the doubles alongside Pierre-Hugues Herbert as he continues his tentative return to action. The spotlight will be on the men’s doubles like never before, especially if he meets brother Jamie along the way. The Scot is also looking for a female partner to play mixed doubles with, but has so far struggled to find one. World number one Barty turned him down, although he has since been inundated with offers and Serena Williams has hinted she would be keen.
Raising the bar
Since the turn of the century only Williams (twice) has doubled up by winning the French Open women’s singles title and then triumphing at Wimbledon. Barty was something of a surprise winner at Roland Garros, claiming her first grand-slam crown, yet the Australian is widely considered to have a game more suited to grass than the clay of Paris. The 23-year-old actually quit tennis to play cricket in 2014 but has rediscovered her love for the sport and will be a major threat.
Home hopes for Konta
With Kyle Edmund struggling for form, Britain’s best hopes of singles success probably lie with Johanna Konta, whose sparkling clay-court season culminated in her run to the semi-finals in Paris. The former world number four has rediscovered her chief weapons, an aggressive service game and devastating hard hitting, which went awry following her run to the last four at Wimbledon in 2017.
Marathon man Is-no more
After South African Kevin Anderson won the second-longest match in Wimbledon history, a six-and-a-half hour semi-final marathon against American John Isner with a final set which lasted almost three hours, it prompted the All England Club to change the rules. From this year, a fifth-set tie-break will be played should the score reach 12-12. It may come as a relief to Isner, who was also involved in the longest match when he beat France’s Nicolas Mahut 70-68 in the fifth set of their first-round contest in 2010.
The 2019 Wimbledon championships are around the corner and all of the big stars will be back in town.
Roger Federer will bid for a ninth title at the All England Club and defending champion Novak Djokovic is looking for a fifth, although home favourite Andy Murray, the 2013 and 2016 winner, will not feature in the singles following hip surgery.
Here, Press Association Sport picks out 10 contenders and hopefuls in the men’s draw.
After Rafael Nadal’s 12th French Open crown, can Federer make it nine at Wimbledon? He surprisingly exited at the quarter-final stage last year, despite having match points in his clash with Kevin Anderson. Federer’s results in the grand slams are on the slide, having not made a final since the Australian Open last year, but even at 37, there are few players who can match him on the grass.
It was at Wimbledon 12 months ago that Djokovic ended what for him was a grand slam drought of just over two years and he did not look back, winning the US Open and Australian Open to return to the top of the world rankings. He has won four times at SW19 and will again be the player to beat.
It will be another year of heading to Wimbledon on the back of a French Open success for the Spaniard after his 12th Roland Garros triumph earlier this month. The world number two’s knees have not been too keen on the transition from clay to grass in recent years, but his run to the semi-final last year – where he lost an epic five-set thriller with Djokovic – was his best performance at the All England Club since 2011.
View this post on Instagram
On Monday... after the amazing emotions lived @Rolandgarros back to practice & starting to prepare for @wimbledon at the best place possible for me... Nothing like being at home and practice. Thanks @mallorcaopen organisers for allowing me to practice at their tournament and best of luck! 💪🏻👏🏻😉
The 22-year-old German has been a constant source of frustration for those wanting to see the next generation finally try and topple the big three. Away from the grand slams Zverev is a match for anyone and has won some of the biggest titles, but he has struggled to transfer that into the best-of-five matches, as yet unable to get beyond the quarter-finals. But he has the undoubted talent that makes it impossible to think some success is not too far away.
The South African cannot be ignored, owing to his run to last year’s final. He disposed of Federer in the quarter-finals and then beat John Isner in a marathon semi-final where the deciding set ended 26-24 in his favour. His massive serve and powerful groundstrokes make him a threat against anyone at SW19, as a victory over world number one Djokovic in 2016 testifies.
"Anderson vs Isner, a Wimbledon classic - you better believe it"— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 13, 2018
A Centre Court epic ends with @KAndersonATP going through to the #Wimbledon final, beating John Isner 7-6(6), 6-7(5), 6-7(9), 6-4, 26-24 pic.twitter.com/Fv4ww2cEzK
Tsitsipas has had a breakthrough 12 months which has seen him win three ATP Tour titles and reach the semi-finals of the Australian Open. The Greek defeated Federer in Melbourne, which proved he is capable of matching the world’s best, and is now a firm fixture in the top 10. At 20 his best years are ahead of him, but his highly entertaining style of play will have fans on his side and he will be targeting a run deep into the second week.
Work for a cause, not for applause. pic.twitter.com/y3fvfrVHHj— Stefanos Tsitsipas (@StefTsitsipas) June 14, 2019
The Austrian is the next-gen player who has got closer than anyone to breaking the stranglehold of the big three with back-to-back French Open final appearances. At 25, he will know that his time to deliver is coming and will hope that the success on the clay will give him confidence on other surfaces. A fourth-round appearance in 2017 is his best effort at Wimbledon but a picturebook single-hand backhand and speed around the court make him a threat.
A player of eye-catching ability, Shapovalov’s undoubted potential has yet to be realised on the biggest stage, having failed to make it into the second week in any of his last six grand slams. The 20-year-old bowed out in the second round of Wimbledon last year, but his junior title there in 2016 means grass is a surface he enjoys playing on and any of the big names will be keen to avoid him in the draw.
Still a baby of the game, at 18 the Canadian is the youngest member of the top 100 and he is only heading one way. His early-season results have catapulted him up the rankings, having made three tour finals and enjoyed deep runs at Indian Wells and Miami. He reached the quarter-finals of the junior event at Wimbledon in 2016 and has the athleticism to cause anyone trouble.
The Russian proved his potential when he beat Djokovic to claim the Paris Masters last autumn in what remains his biggest career win. With a monster forehand and pinpoint serving, Khachanov will be one of the mainstays at the top of the game for the next decade or so. He will be keen to build on his run to the last eight in Paris last month, which is his best grand-slam performance to date.