New York — They came, they saw, they flopped — again.
With the notable exception of Australian 19-year-old Alex de Minaur and his Saturday night, Sunday morning pyrotechnics against 2014 champion Marin Cilic, the US Open has been yet another Grand Slam to forget for the widely hyped NextGen.
Similar to Wimbledon, where the average age of the quarterfinalists was 31, the eight men who will contest the same stage in New York have an average age of 29.5. The youngest is Dominic Thiem, who turned 25 on Monday.
World No4 Alexander Zverev, supposedly the brightest star of the sport’s new generation, exited in the third round in New York. The 21-year-old lost in four sets to German compatriot Philipp Kohlschreiber, 13 years his senior.
Zverev has still to get beyond the quarterfinals of a Major with a troubled run to the last eight at Roland Garros recently his best performance. Yet he has nine tour titles with three in 2018 in Munich, Madrid and Washington. He was also runner-up at Masters events in Miami and Rome. He bristled when asked if he was lacking something in his competitive DNA when it came to the Majors.
"You are overthinking this way too much," said Zverev, who came to New York with a season-leading 45 match wins.
However, he is not alone in his struggles. Of the other seven men who contested the inaugural NextGen finals in Milan in 2017, the best run at the US Open came from 21-year-old Borna Coric, who went to the last-16. Karen Khachanov gave Rafael Nadal a scare before losing in the third round, the same stage that saw the exits of Denis Shapovalov and Daniil Medvedev. Chung Hyeon, who at least had the consolation of a shock semifinal run at the Australian Open, lost in the second round.
Russia’s Andrey Rublev was a first-round casualty. At Wimbledon, only Khachanov of the eight managed to make the second week.
Adding to the headaches for the underperforming young brigade is that the sport’s heavyweights still maintain an iron grip on the Grand Slams.
Of the last 61 |Majors, 56 have been carved up by Roger Federer (20), Nadal (17), Novak Djokovic (13) and Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka who have three apiece.
Federer, Nadal and Djokovic were all Grand Slam winners before they were 22.
Russia’s Marat Safin, one of the men to break the pattern by winning the 2005 Australian Open, said he can see the likes of 37-year-old Federer and Nadal, 32, playing until they are 40.
"Look at the level of tennis, it’s not growing. Everyone plays the same, mediocre tennis," he said. "That’s why I see Nadal and Federer playing until they’re 40, no one can threaten them."