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)