Former semi-finalist Philipp Kohlschreiber believes the players of the younger generation have an opportunity to thrive in a few years when the ‘Big Four’ dominance comes to an end, the German said on Saturday at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships draw ceremony.
Kohlschreiber, 32, has been bouncing in and out of the top-30 for much of the past decade, peaking at No16 in 2012.
And as a contemporary of tennis’ super quartet – Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray – Kohlschreiber has been competing in an era where opportunities to win big titles for the rest of the field are always slim.
But with Federer already 34 years old, Nadal turning 30, and Murray and Djokovic both turning 29, the ‘Big Four’ era is entering its final years and Kohlschreiber does not see a young group of players that look primed to take their place and carry the baton.
Which is why he feels someone like his 18-year-old compatriot, Alexander Zverev, who is being touted as a future star, has a chance to shine.
“I think Alexander Zverev comes on a great time on the tennis court,” said the eighth-seeded Kohlschreiber, who was drawn to face Turkish wildcard Marsel Ilhan in the Dubai first round.
“We have to say that the top four guys they are also getting older. Novak, Roger, and maybe Murray are still dominating tennis but in a few years there will be nobody that strong – at the moment which I see – not that strong like these guys. So everybody else, younger than 24, will have a very good perspective of not having such really strong players from No1 to No4.
“Rafa is struggling a little bit right now but he also he was really successful on clay so every time you faced him you knew the chance to go out of the tournament is very high. And this is changing I think in tennis so there are more chances for lower-ranked players to achieve maybe better results because there won’t be those four superheroes, let’s say.”
For now though, the superheroes are still out in force, including Djokovic who is the top seed in Dubai and is seeking a fifth title at the Aviation Club.
Djokovic has a slew of Spaniards in his path in Dubai as he opens against veteran Tommy Robredo then could potentially face off with No6 seed Feliciano Lopez in the quarters and No4 seed Roberto Bautista Agut in the semis.
Two-time grand slam champion Stan Wawrinka, in Dubai for the first time since 2008, will face Sergiy Stakhovsky in an opening round for the second time in as many weeks as he had just beaten the Ukrainian in a third-set tiebreak in Marseille three days ago.
No7 seed Martin Klizan, making his Dubai debut, is coming off an impressive run of results, having won eight of his last nine matches that included a semi-final showing in Sofia and a title victory in Rotterdam earlier this month.
Klizan has a daunting first round against an in-form Nick Kyrgios, who will also be playing Dubai for the first time.
“Of course I’m confident. My game is making progress in the last couple of weeks. I had very tough first three weeks in January but I started to play very solid in Sofia. So I’m quite confident here and let’s see what’s going to happen,” the 27th-ranked Klizan told Sport360.
“Nick is a great player. He showed many times that he has big qualities to be a great player. We’ve never played against each other, so it’s going to be our first meeting but I’m sure it’s going to be a very good match for both and for the crowd as well and I’m looking forward to play.”
Viktor Troicki, the No5 seed, joked when he was reminded that he is Serbia’s No2 behind Djokovic.
“That’s always been the case, I’m not even No1 in my own city,” laughed the world No21, who has an impressive 12-4 record this season, including a title win in Sydney.
Troicki has Marcos Baghdatis in the first round and is in Djokovic’s half of the draw.
No3 seed Tomas Berdych, a former Dubai runner-up, opens against Portugal’s Joao Sousa and is a potential semi-final opponent for Wawrinka.
First rounds to watch:
Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) v Tommy Robredo (ESP)
Feliciano Lopez (ESP x6) v Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP)
Chung Hyeon (KOR) v Andreas Seppi (ITA)
Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) v Viktor Troicki (SRB x5)
Martin Klizan (SVK x7) v Nick Kyrgios (AUS)
Borna Coric (CRO) v Jiri Vesely (CZE)
Stan Wawrinka (SUI x2) v Sergiy Stakhovsky (UKR)
A mere three days ago, world No47 Barbora Strycova was down 2-6, 0-3, against Julia Goerges and looked on her way towards yet another early exit from the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
On Saturday, the Czech 29-year-old will play the Dubai final, where she takes on former runner-up Sara Errani for a chance to win her first title since 2011 and just the second of her career.
Strycova, the third Czech woman to reach the Dubai title match in the last four years, halted a comeback from Caroline Garcia in the semi-finals on Friday night, to defeat the French world No38 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in a two-hour 13-minute contest.
Errani booked her place in her second career Dubai final with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Elina Svitolina, who was trying to emulate her newly-minted coaching consultant Justine Henin, who is a four-time champion in the Emirates.
This will be Errani’s first Premier-level final since Rome 2014 and the Italian is undoubtedly pleased to advance but Friday also saw her squander five match points alongside her doubles partner Carla Suarez Navarro in their 5-7, 7-6 (5), 10-7 bizarre loss to Chuang Chia-Jung and Darija Jurak in a two-hour battle.
“Well, at the moment very angry for the doubles, but of course, yes, to be in the final in singles is really special and amazing for me,” said Errani, who is renowned for her consistent style, running down every ball – a quality that paid dividends against Svitolina.
She looked evidently tired after a day where she played back-to-back semis in singles and doubles.
“I’m tired, but I know how to play when you’re tired. I just try to fight,” said the 28-year-old.
“I don’t think I’m really fit. I think there are other persons that are maybe much better than me physically, but I think I just try to fight, to suffer on the court and still keep going, stay there even if I’m dead.”
The good news for Errani is that she has a strong 5-1 record against Strycova, her final opponent.
Their most recent meeting was a third-set tiebreak win for Errani in Eastbourne last year.
“It’s going to be tough one. I lost to Sara in Eastbourne. It’s on grass. But I lost from two match points down. So revenge,” Strycova said with a big grin on her face.
The Czech has a fun personality, on and off the court, although mid-match she can get emotionally explosive.
She was composed enough to beat Garcia on Friday though, despite the Frenchwoman’s spirited comeback attempt.
Strycova entered the contest with a 3-1 head-to-head lead over Garcia, including an easy win over the 22-year-old in the Australian Open first round last month.
Garcia, a player picked by Andy Murray five years ago as a future world No1, was playing her first-ever semi-final at a Premier-level tournament, thanks to wins over Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, No3 seed Carla Suarez Navarro and former top-tenner Andrea Petkovic earlier in the week.
Strycova drew first blood, breaking Garcia to go up 3-2 and spark a seven-game winning run, taking the first set along the way.
Garcia finally stopped the bleeding three games into the second set and took four games on the trot to inch ahead 4-2.
Strycova got the break back right away but Garcia got the advantage once again to serve for the set at 5-3.
The Frenchwoman struck a sublime backhand down the line to seal the set and force a decider.
Garcia kept things up as she broke to open the third set but she netted an easy slice to surrender the break.
A long backhand from Garcia gave Strycova two break points in game eight. Garcia saved both but faltered on the third and the Czech broke to put herself in the position to serve for the match.
Strycova saved two break points then aced twice to move into the final.
Asked when was the last time she finished a match with two aces, the 1.64m Strycova laughed and said: “Never… I’m so small, so for me it’s good to put an ace. And two in a row to serving for match, it feels great.
“It feels great to be in the final. I can’t believe it, actually, because it wasn’t easy match for me today.”
Sara Errani held off a strong challenge to defeat Elina Svitolina 6-4 6-4 and reach her second final at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
In a match of long baseline rallies, each player struggled to gain the upper hand. Svitolina saved a break point in the opening game and was then broken for 2-1 when she netted a forehand, but Errani’s lead was short-lived as she double-faulted in the next game to drop her own serve. Svitolina then faced break point for the third straight game but held for 3-2, before Errani broke again at 3-3 on her fifth break point.
Svitolina continued to struggle in her service games in the second set, fighting off two break points to hold for 1-0, breaking for 3-1 but then allowing Errani to immediately break back and then break again to lead 4-3. In the closest of battles, Errani then had to recover from 0-30 as she closed out the match.
Errani will face Barbora Strycova in the final on Saturday.