Going into this year’s US Open, the biggest talking point is another potential generational final between the top two male players in the world - Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic.
Alcaraz, the 20-year-old Spaniard, is the defending champion in New York. Djokovic is back at Flushing Meadows after missing last year’s edition due to restrictions on international travellers who are unvaccinated against COVID-19.
The duo has faced each other three times this year - the French Open semifinal, the Wimbledon final and the Cincinnati final - with the last two going the distance.
With Roger Federer already retired and Rafael Nadal perhaps in the last stage of his career, it is the battle between Alcaraz and Djokovic that can define how men’s tennis will look in the next three to four years.
“The Alcaraz-Djokovic rivalry is just so good for the game, isn’t it? Every way you look at it, even the timing at which it came. One was kind of wondering if Novak would actually go out and get those 27-30 Slams that people have claimed. If there is anybody who can stop that, it is Carlos Alcaraz,” said Somdev Devvarman in a virtual media interaction.
Former World No. 62 Somdev added, “Let’s also be a little realistic about it. Alcaraz is only getting better... He’s only 20 years old. Novak is 36. That’s the truth. In his interviews, he did say, ‘When I was at my peak, it reminded me of playing Nadal.’ It clearly means he feels like he’s not at his peak right now, and it’s hard. He’s 36 years old. How is he going to be at his peak?
Somdev feels that both Djokovic and Alcaraz are motivated to win as many Slams as they can, and it will ultimately boil down to how the Serbian’s body holds up.
“The rivalry that Novak and Alcaraz are now starting to form, [it] has been great for the sport, and I do hope that it continues for at least a couple years because they’re playing some epic matches already, and we’re going to know how much Alcaraz is demanding from someone like Novak and how much Novak, at that age, can really give and how much can he withstand it physically,” he said.
“We know he can do it mentally and emotionally. He’s got the experience behind him, but physically, will his body allow him to keep up with somebody like Alcaraz? That’s the real question.”
Condition of Indian tennis and expectations from Asian Games
Former Davis Cupper Somdev also spoke about the present situation of Indian tennis. Three Indians - Ankita Raina, Karman Kaur Thandi and Sumit Nagal - were involved in the qualifiers of the US Open, but none of them could reach the main draw.
“India is in a precarious place when it comes to professional tennis because we’re not really knocking on the door of the top 100 yet, in men and women. It’s just the fact - the rankings don’t lie.
The good news is Ankita has proved that she can play at a good level. She came very close to making the main draw. Karman has potential. She ran into a tough draw against Oceane Dodin from France. She has the firepower, a big serve, and a massive forehand. Can she stay healthy for a long season? That’s the big question.
Sumit is coming off hip surgery and finally feeling comfortable on a court. He lost a tough match to Taro Daniel, but earlier in the season, he’s won a couple of Challengers already,” said the 38-year-old.
Can India expect a medal in tennis at the upcoming Asian Games in China where tough competition is expected from the Kazakhs, the Japanese, the host nation and the Koreans?
Somdev feels the Indians are not going to be favourites in pretty much any of the events, and the only category in which the country has a chance is men’s doubles. “In men’s doubles, you’re going to have Rohan (Bopanna) playing with Ramkumar Ramanathan. That’s probably our best medal hope. Keep in mind, that Sania (Sania Mirza) is not playing in the women’s doubles. But in singles, in men and women, it’s a very tall task,” he said.
According to Somdev, the Indian tennis system needs to change in order to spot better talent and requires better coaching and tournament structures.
Where to watch the US Open
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