Two of the players in the Wimbledon semifinals are the top players in the world, but the other two–Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic–are upstarts who are ready to topple the “Big 4” and usher in a new generation in men’s tennis. Both men are 23 years of age.
While Novak Djokovic, 27, and Roger Federer, 32, are of course favorites to win their respective semifinal matches, Dimitrov and Raonic have already showcased their confidence and potential by beating some top veterans at Wimbledon.
Before the tournament, eleventh seed Dimitrov (pictured below) was known outside of the tennis world for dating superstar Maria Sharapova. He laughs off the nickname Mr. Sharapova, but maybe after this Wimbledon everyone will recognize him as Mr. Dimitrov, appreciate his game, and view him as a player to be reckoned with. He defeated defending champion Andy Murray in straight sets in the quarterfinals, and he did so in decisive fashion. Yes, the second set was won in a tiebreak, but Murray only won three games total in the first and third sets. Dimitrov never appeared nervous or scared before his match against Murray. And after the match, the BBC asked Dimitrov if he was surprised, and the look on his face told the BBC it was a stupid question. “Why should I be surprised?” was his response. He is called “Baby Fed” for a reason: his style mirror’s Federer’s, and he could one day rival him.
Eighth seed Raonic (pictured below) flew through the first five rounds and only dropped two sets on the way. He has one of the best serves on tour, a stat even Djokovic acknowledged, and it is not uncommon for him to have more than 20 aces in a match. Even if his serves are not aces, the majority of his first serves are in play, which helps him win a lot of easy points. He faces Federer in the semifinals. Break points are incredibly important in these matches, and even more so when two dominant servers battle each other. The confidence and calm Raonic radiates on the court should worry Federer and the other veterans. Raonic is simply not intimidated or threatened by them. He has already been to the quarterfinals, for instance, at the French Open on clay, which is not even his preferred surface.
An honorable mention in the “future stars” category goes to Australian 19-year-old Nick Kyrgios, who lost to Raonic in the quarterfinals. He defeated Nadal in four sets in the fourth round and never appeared overwhelmed, even though he was playing against the top player in the world. He played with confidence against Nadal and Raonic.
All of this does not mean Federer, Djokovic, and Nadal are going to whither away and never win another Grand Slam. But their time seems to be slowly coming to an end, and everyone at this year’s Wimbledon is acknowledging these young players because they have shown that it will be their time very soon.