Why men’s tennis is starting to look like women’s tennis

By Todd Scoullar

Men’s tennis is in a very exciting period right now. It’s becoming much more like women’s tennis than we’ve been used to (spoiler alert … I’m not talking about the best of 3 at Slams).

For the past 15 years, if your habits are similar to mine, you would scan a Grand Slam draw, search the 128 players, and try to figure out who should hold the trophy at the end of the fourteen days.

It would normally take me thirty seconds and I can not imagine it would take you much longer.

For incredible enough, when you think about it, there were only 5 or 6 players that you would really give a real chance to; the ‘big 3’, Andy, Stan and possibly Del Potro when he was in shape.

Of course, there would be a cluster of ten to fifteen that you would like to use for a QF space or even an SF if everything fell into place. But when it came down to it, one just could not see the next row of competitors penetrating the wall of champions standing in front of them.

For many tennis fans, there is a disappointment in accepting that Roger, Rafa and Novak will not adorn the courts much longer. There has also been a prevailing feeling that tennis will be boring once they are gone.

To some extent, they are right. Every time a champion retires, there is a sadness over it. But when you have three of the biggest ones ending at similar times, the vacuum threatens to suck the life out of the trip, which has been a real concern for 5 or 6 years.

But I see another side of the men’s tour now …

Here’s a metaphor for you … Think of the ‘big 3’ as your favorite restaurant. When you saw them, you knew what you were going to get. You would be comfortable sitting down to watch a main course of Roger at Wimbledon, Rafa in Paris or Novak in Australia. And you would just take it every weekend. It did not matter if they competed against each other in an epic 5-setter or cruised through an early round against an underdog beyond the top 100.

We were thrilled to see them. Even more so if you were lucky enough to see them live. But … there are hundreds of other restaurants (players) out there that I, and probably many of us, metaphorically walked past every day. Scanned the menu, visited maybe once a year, but generally ignored them and visited our favorite again.

As we stand, in men’s tennis, it’s almost as if the restaurant has put up the closing sign and we’re all forced to try new flavors. Personally, I was hesitant at first, but now I appreciate what is really on offer.

And this is where men’s tennis, in my opinion, is becoming like women’s – at least for a few years. If we look at Slam results on the women’s side, we have to go back to 2016 to find a year where we did not have 4 different champions. It’s 5 calendar years where no player has won multiple Slam titles.

In 2021, there were 21 completed Premier / Mandatory tournaments on the WTA Tour. This resulted in 14 people picking up a winning check. Since the dominant Serena era has come to an end, I have found women’s tennis far more interesting (absolutely nothing against Serena, but there were really no real rivals to pressure her on a regular basis).

Today, there are several mini-rivalries, and when you enter a tournament, you honestly do not know how it will go. In short, women’s tennis is engaging and fascinating.

Back to the men … From the Madrid 2008 tournament to the same event in 2017, the big four (including Murray) won 88.5% of the Masters titles. 69 from 78. Phenomenal. Boring? At the time, I did not think so, but on closer inspection, possibly.

Fast forward to current times, and of the past 10 Masters events, we’ve had 9 different winners!

Boring? Absolutely not.

How many of you follow a football league of some sort? Is it more exciting when there are consistently 2 or 3 teams at the top? Or does it entice you further when 8-10 teams are really on the hunt? I take the last thank you.

So why has there been such a great disgrace over men’s tennis when the inevitable closure of the three great eras is approaching? Is it because the ranks of players below them have just never felt worthy enough to take over the reins? Maybe. More likely, it’s simply that we’ve been so used to the same names popping up on a Sunday that we, like our favorite restaurant, feel a little pessimistic about what to follow.

Do not be pessimistic anymore.

The next harvest of players is exciting, talented and worthy of taking tennis into a new era. Brand new rivalry is emerging, and like the women’s side, it’s getting harder and harder to pick a winner, and I’m not going to try.

But just as an example, is it not possible to believe that over the next few years we could see Medvedev win an Australian Open, Alcaraz a French, Berretini a Wimbledon, Sinner a US Open …?

Or alternatively, none of these players can think of lifting a trophy. It could very well be Tsitsipas, Fritz, Shapovalov, Auger-Aliassime, Rublev, Ruud, Korda, Norrie … In this case, the list goes really deep.

There is a lot to be excited about in the tennis world right now. But for me, getting the men’s stage to become more like the women’s is exactly what we need to succeed in the recent era of dominance we have witnessed.

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