Wimbledon 2017 prepares us for new era

Despite Roger Federer lifting his eighth Wimbledon title, there is a sense that times are changing at SW19.

Hats off to Roger Federer. To come back and claim his record eighth Wimbledon crown at the age of 35 is outstanding, and it is easy to forget that the Swiss went five years without success at The Championships. Roger now has 19 Grand Slams to his name, four ahead of the rest of the men’s field.

He may be the king of Wimbledon, but if you look more closely, you can see that things are beginning to change in professional tennis, in both the men’s and women’s game. Roger Federer may have won two out of three Grand Slams this year, but the GOAT has taken a significant amount of time off in the past 12 months to stay sharp.

The 35-year-old took six months off at the back end of 2016, and then skipped the entire 2017 clay court season to stay sharp for Wimbledon. The ploy has clearly worked, with the Swiss not dropping a set in London, and only losing two matches all year. Federer joked after his eighth Wimbledon title that he should take more time off, but don’t be surprised if this is the case as his career winds down.

So who will step up to the mark, and become the face of men’s tennis? Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are the obvious names, but all three are now the wrong side of the 30. Judging by Federer’s success age is not an issue, but injuries have started to show for both Djokovic and Murray, struggling at Wimbledon, and it is no secret that Nadal has had injury troubles throughout his career.

Milos Raonic is the name that tennis experts expect to battle the top four for Grand Slam titles in the coming years. The big serving Canadian got to the Wimbledon final 12 months ago, but has failed to capitalise since. Backed up by a big forehand, he has the tools to lift Slam titles, and at the age of 26, he is entering his prime.

Marin Cilic must be mentioned after reaching the Wimbledon final this year, and it was a shame that injury prevented from giving his best tennis for the Centre Court crowd during the final. The Croatian already has a US Open crown to his name, and with the world’s top five starting to wane, he could capitalise at Flushing Meadows once again in September.

Looking further ahead, you can almost guarantee that Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev will pick up Slam titles in their career. Aged just 23 and 20 respectively and ranked 7th and 11th, their level of talent is clear, and you feel that challenging for Slams is just around the corner. With 15 ATP titles and a Masters 1000 between them, they are clearly on the path to success.

Muguruza makes name on greatest stage

A changing of the guard is even clearer in the women’s game, with Garbine Muguruza becoming the first women to beat both Williams sisters in Grand Slam finals. The Spaniard defeated Serena at the French Open last year, and then blew Venus away at Wimbledon last week. At only 23, she has plenty of titles and accolades awaiting her, and with such a powerful game, she has the ability to dominate the women’s game, much like Venus and Serena have.

Venus’s capitulation in the second set during the Wimbledon final perhaps highlights that at the age of 37, a full fortnight of tennis is just too much for her. She still has had a great year, reaching the final of the Australian Open also, but lifting Slam championships is a whole different ball game.

The story of Wimbledon was British number one Johanna Konta. The now world number four became the first British women to reach the semi-finals since Virginia Wade in 1978, with Konta providing some of the tennis of the tournament with thrilling wins over Donna Vekic and Simona Halep.

With question marks over Serena’s return after her pregnancy, titles will be up for grabs, and you can expect Konta to be there or thereabouts. Karolina Pliskova, Simona Halep, Angelique Kerber, Elina Svitolina, Svetlana Kuznestova will all be challenging for Slams in the coming years along with Konta and Muguruza.

Serena holds to the key to the future of women’s tennis. Obviously the 35-year-old wants to eclipse Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles, but whether she can return to her level after starting a family remains to be seen. Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin and Victoria Azarenka have all returned to the tour after giving birth with great success, so you can almost guarantee that Serena will come back, and compete for titles.

But none of those were at the age of 35, and with the baby due in the Autumn you would expect that Serena will not return to at earliest the Australian Open in January, with the French Open or next year’s Wimbledon more likely. By that time she will be 36, and would only have as much as two years left on the circuit.

With uncertainty surrounding the future of both the men’s and women’s game, if Wimbledon 2017 is anything to go by, we are in for an exciting few years ahead, as new stars come to the fore.