Rafael Nadal’s shocking loss to Frenchmen Lucas Pouille in an epic five set fourth round encounter at the US Open 2016 has made headlines across continents. The Spanish Bull’s loss to the twenty-two year old Frenchmen may have deeper ramifications. Nadal’s loss could possibly mark an end to the dominance of the ‘Big Four’ in men’s tennis.
After a wrist injury Nadal was forced to pull out of French Open 2016 and Wimbledon 2016 earlier in this season. Nadal had regained form after fetching gold in doubles at Rio Games before heading for the US Open. The Spanish star looked in great touch as he cruised in straight sets over lesser known opponents in the opening rounds of the tournament before setting up a clash with French giant killer Lucas Pouille in the round of sixteen.
In the past, Nadal has often found it tough against big serving opponents at Grand Slams and a potent server once again proved to be his nemesis. His crushing defeat has reignited the old debate as to how much does the hard court king have in his tank. Is Nadal past his prime? However, the left hander has made a strong statement in his defence quoting that he is still good enough to compete at the very top and add to his impressive tally of fourteen grand slams. He vouched to make certain changes to his game to seek better results against formidable opponents in future tourney.
Meanwhile, Frenchmen Lucas Pouille is having a dream run in the tournament after upsetting his much more fancied opponent. Pouille with his potent serve and hard hitting ground strokes has all the ingredients to become a star and carry on the great legacy of French tennis which has produced greats like Guy Forget, Cedric Pioline, Sebastien Grosjean, Jo Wilfred Tsonga, Richard Gasquet, Giles Simon and Gael Monfils. Jo Wilfred Tsonga and Gael Monfils have already booked a place in the last eight alongside Lucas Pouille.
With the Swiss maestro Roger Federer battling fitness issues and pulling out midway in the season and Nadal having a sea saw season with flashes of brilliance, it generally has been Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray fighting out for the top honors in recent times. The ‘Fab four’ has slowly but surely shrunk down to the ‘Dominant Two’.
Meanwhile, the likes of Stanislas Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic have proved their pedigree in the recent past to become serious title contenders at Grand Slams. The tennis fraternity is delighted to see hard hitting Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro make a resounding comeback on the tour. Del Potro, a former US Open champion has the game to beat the best on his day. There also seems to be a breath of fresh air on tour courtesy talented youngsters like Grigor Dimitrov, Dominic Thiem and David Goffin who look promising to take over the mantle of the game from their more illustrious counterparts.
So in a nutshell, it is fair to conclude that the men’s game is ushering into a new era which promises to break the long standing hegemony of the ‘Big Four’ at the top in the men’s tennis. For any sport it is always engaging and enthralling for the fans to witness the ultimate battle of sportsmen who hold their fort at the very top to take on the budding youngsters who are destined to achieve greatness in the next era.