Nadal: Zverev, Shapo Are The Vanguard
It’s inevitable: the time will come for a generational change, one that will likely give the top of the ATP World Tour a major facelift. Even the sublime likes of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, ageless wonders and winners of a combined 37 Grand Slam titles, will have to call it a career at some point. And with a new crop of stars quickly coming into their own, there will be no shortage of players in which to pass the torch.
Nadal has one eye on the fresh wave of talent emerging on the tour, and another on helping to cultivate that talent. In addition to founding the Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar, a centre designed to train and educate promising talent, the Spaniard is hosting the Rafa Nadal Open Banc Sabadell, a newly created tournament on the ATP Challenger Tour, from 26 August to 2 September in Mallorca, Spain.
While they’re already current regulars on the ATP World Tour these days, Nadal feels 21-year-old Alexander Zverev and 19-year-old Denis Shapovalov are the most likely of the strong bunch to lead the charge to the top in coming years and the forces to push a changing of the guard.
“The young guys are coming: Zverev, Shapovalov … I’m not going to name them all, but there are many out there right now who I think are particularly special, and they are obviously going to replace us,” said Nadal, who is preparing for the North American hard-court swing by training on the surface in Mallorca. “It’s either because they are going to just be better than us in a short time or because logic dictates that age will eventually catch up to us.
“Our era was particularly exceptional, when a series of players dominated the tour for years, at the highest level of tennis, at the biggest tournaments.”
In addition to his 17 Grand Slam titles, the 32-year-old holds the record for the most ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crowns with 32.
Nadal also believes that the Next Gen ATP Finals, to be held 6-10 November in Milan, has added extra motivation for the sport’s emerging talent and a platform to showcase how fierce the competition is among tennis’ rising stars. Nadal takes particular interest in the career of Jaume Munar. The 21-year-old trains at Nadal’s academy and is currently eighth in the ATP Race To Milan. The top seven will automatically qualify for the 21-and-under event.
“[Munar] has made major strides in recent months and for us at the academy, it is with great satisfaction to see that we are able to help an up-and-coming Spanish player,” Nadal said.