Sports / Tennis

No changing of the guard just yet

By Agence France-Presse in London (China Daily) Updated: 2014-07-06 06:57

Canada's Milos Raonic admits his chastening Wimbledon semifinal defeat against Roger Federer shows the next generation of wannabe stars aren't quite ready to overthrow the establishment.

Raonic and fellow young gun Grigor Dimitrov have long been the most highly regarded of the group of gifted prodigies hoping to end the decade-long domination of Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.

With both marching impressively to their first Grand Slam semifinal appearances this week, while Murray and Nadal both bowed out earlier than expected, there was a growing feeling a revolution was brewing.

But those hoping to see some fresh faces holding aloft the sport's biggest prizes will have to wait a little longer after the old guard rubber stamped its supremacy at the All England Club on Friday.

Raonic, 23, was clinically dismissed by Federer as the 17-time Grand Slam winner cruised to a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory just hours after Dimitrov, 23, came up short on the big points in his 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (7) loss to top seed Djokovic.

It was a savage but potentially valuable experience for the pair, and Raonic hopes they will lick their wounds and return stronger and wiser.

"I think guys have the level within themselves. It's more just an understanding of how to deal with the situation," he said.

"That's something I didn't do well today. That's probably the thing that I can learn the most from.

"Because I believe I can put myself in the situation again, and the worst part would be to sort of have the same feeling after. I know I can do much better. That's the most I have to take out of it."

While Federer and Djokovic, who have 23 Grand Slams between them, have a wealth of experience in how to close out high-pressure matches, Raonic and Dimitrov are both still waiting to play in their first major final.

"It's obviously a situation I would have liked to have had the opportunity to experience before the semifinal, especially against Roger, who's played triple digit matches on that court," Raonic said.

What is worrying for the likes of Raonic, Dimitrov and Japan's Kei Nishikori - the other much-touted member of this young crop - is that they have all failed to emulate the early successes of Nadal, Federer and Djokovic.

Nadal won his first Grand Slam aged 19, Federer at 21 and Djokovic at 20.

Not since 2002, when Lleyton Hewitt took the title, has Wimbledon been won by someone outside of the sport's current big four.

The gulf is just as big at the other three majors, with only four of the past 42 Grand Slams won by someone other than those four.

But according to Dimitrov, his win over Murray in the quarterfinals this week and the epic triumph of Australian teenager Nick Kyrgios against Nadal earlier in the tournament should give encouragement to the youngsters.

"This is the first time for me to be in the semifinal of a Slam, so obviously to me that's a positive," he said.

"I'm not going to over analyze much what's been happening the past weeks to me because there's no need for that.

"Of course, I'm going to have to play even better when it comes to matches like that, but it's a good lesson for me.

"As soon as it comes to a clutch match like those ones against Andy, Novak, this is where I want to get into that next gear and bring all my goods. I think the rest is just a matter of time."

 No changing of the guard just yet

Roger Federer (right) leaves the court with Milos Raonic after winning their semifinal encounter at Wimbledon on Friday. Ben Curtis / Associated Press

(China Daily 07/06/2014 page11)

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