As the Olympic athletes arrive home in their respective countries in style, probably having a rest before the four-year cycle begins again, it’s still all business for the tennis stars of the Games. Straight after striking gold on the final Sunday of the Rio 2016 tennis event, Andy Murray jetted off north to Cincinnati, reportedly being accompanied by Rafa Nadal. The tennis season is hugely demanding, relentless and intense.
If, in the four years between Games, there are many different events and changes in dynamic for each of the Olympic sports, then tennis is certainly at the extreme end of the spectrum. Four Slams, nine Masters 1000s, four Premier Mandatories, five Premier 5s, London’s ATP World Tour Finals and Singapore’s WTA Finals: they all come and go in every jam-packed tennis calendar year.
So, as the rain bucketed down in Cincinnati last week, just after tennis had bid adieu to Brazil’s most famous city, we got thinking about what the tennis world will resemble when Tokyo comes calling in the year of 2020.
Who will still be playing? Who will be at the top of the game? Who will have won a Slam? Will there be any new breath-taking rivalries? Who will be in strong contention for Olympic medals in Japan?
We asked you to get involved on Twitter with your thoughts:
— TennisTV (@TennisTV) August 17, 2016
So here’re some of your projections plus our own musings too…
What will the Big Four be doing?
By the time 2020 arrives, Roger Federer will be almost 39. Even for the superhuman Swiss, it might be pushing it for him to still be at the top by then. Surely, he won’t want his playing career to peter out into retirement, he’ll want to go out playing high-level, attacking, graceful tennis on the sport’s very grandest stages. But 2020, sadly, seems too far.
Federer’s greatest rival Nadal has certainly had some peaks and troughs over the last few years. 2015 was a season of injury and disappointment but 2016 has been punched with some serious exclamation marks, such as the back-to-back triumphs in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, along with a doubles gold medal recently in Rio.
His participation at this year’s Olympics was really in doubt, but he ended up playing all three, possible events. So was that the sign that Rafa is thinking Rio would be his last Games?
The world’s current top two, Djokovic and Murray, haven’t been at the sport’s summit for quite as long as Roger and Rafa. With just a week separating them in age (both 29), many of you expect them to be there or thereabouts at the top still when Tokyo dawns.
— Greg Gaynor (@G2gaynor) August 17, 2016
Another fan had some interesting predictions too, with Djokovic beating 17 Slams and Murray having won all four at least once…
— Scarlet 🌹 (@scarls17) August 17, 2016
Which young players will make significant moves to the very top?
There were lots of Raonics, Thiems, Nishikoris and a few Kyrgios’, Goffins and Zverevs, as men who would be ranked within the ATP top 5 in four years’ time.
After reaching the Wimbledon final just a couple of months ago, Milos Raonic appears the closest of the rest of the field in becoming a first-time Slam winner.
There were several calls for the Canadian being the top-ranked player…
— Ben Pearce (@bpearcesafc25) August 17, 2016
On the WTA side, Madison Keys has been making big steps in 2016: reaching finals in Rome and Montreal, winning Birmingham and narrowly missing out on a medal in Rio. Four years on, with experience, and with her massive power on court harnessed and matured, the American should be a major force.
There’s a strong possibility that world No. 3 Garbiñe Muguruza, who is still only 22, will be at her peak come 2020. Other names thrown into the ring were Belinda Bencic, Daria Kasatkina, Genie Bouchard and Simona Halep.
Will the Williams’ sisters still be on the tour?
It’s very unlikely, would be the first thought. With her final year or two (or three), Serena is looking to statistically and emphatically stamp her name down as the greatest female tennis player of all time. She wants Slams, preferably three more to beat Margaret Court or at least one to out-do Steffi Graf.
If younger sis can accomplish that within the next couple of years, then that could be that. Serena has always dipped into a variety of projects outside tennis too, such as her own fashion label, her charity foundation, and working with various sponsors and publications.
When asked about Tokyo, Venus said: “God willing, if I really wanted to be there I probably could”.
“It’s about whether I want to be there and want to continue putting in the work to be there. It’s hard. We’ll see”.
Maybe the sisters will wind down their careers playing doubles together and will be there in Tokyo for a shot at their fourth gold together?
Will Nishikori win gold at his home Games?
Andy Murray managed it at London 2012 but it was a touch beyond Thomaz Bellucci in Rio. But, in Tokyo, at the Ariake Coliseum venue, a then 29-year-old Kei Nishikori will be under immense pressure by his adoring Japanese fans to win big.
It’s easy to think of Nishikori as part of a still up-and-coming, young group of players but, actually, he’s now 26! He’s teetered on the brink of major success, reaching a Slam (losing to Cilic) and multiple Masters 1000 finals (losing to Djokovic twice and Nadal once).
But 29 is the age that Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are right now. And it hasn’t served them too badly this year – being far and away the world’s best two. So signs are good for Kei that he might really reach his peak and fulfil his potential by the time the world focuses on his home country’s greatest city.
Maybe he’ll have a won a Slam or two by then and be the flagbearer?
This fan’s predictions are off to a good start, with Marin Cilic becoming the first player younger than Djokovic to win a 1000 title in Cincy…
— Dexter (@mr_dexter_scott) August 17, 2016
So, before the Olympic torch is passed from the carnivals of Rio to the bustle of Tokyo, we look forward to four years of electric tennis. Tweeners, umpire bust-ups and racquet smashes will occur; players may come and go at the top; Slams, Masters, Premiers will be won.
Here’s to the next four years, tennis fans.