It is no secret the concern that the leaders of world tennis have had regarding the generational change in recent times. The enormous dominance of the four tennis players who have crowned the titles over the last 10 years made them fear a lack of interest from the viewer for the new batch, which did not seem to have the impetus to become challenging rivals.
In 2017, the Next Gen ATP Finals was played for the first time, the tournament that takes place in Milan at the end of the year and to which the eight best players under the age of 21 gain access. This initiative and various efforts to promote the image of younger players have been made, I understand, to solve that dreaded gap and the consequent negative effect for our sport.
The first third of the Australian Open and I presume that both the leaders and the fans, in general, should begin to breathe easy. As I write this, nine of the players still in the men's box are under 22 years old. Alexander Zverev, Karen Khachanov, Borna Coric, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Denis Shapovalov and Alex de Miñaur are some of them and those who with increasing strength have been claiming prominence in recent times.
Luck has wanted that the last two of those mentioned, which are the two youngest with only 19 years old, face number one and number two. It's true that Rafael and Novak are still favorites in their respective matches, but I also think that we are before the prelude of a very interesting year in which we will see its definitive irruption.
Garbiñe Muguruza has just moved into the third round in an intense game against an easy Johanna Konta. And next to it, and I hope it continues to be that way, we are left with the male Fernando Verdasco, Pablo Carreño, my nephew Rafael and Roberto Bautista, to whom I would like to dedicate a few words of admiration for several reasons.
Very remarkable is his victory in the recent Qatar tournament, in which he beat Thomas Berdych in the final and Djokovic in the semifinal. And also have been his first two games in this Open, against Murray and against Millman, two intense marathons that kept me in suspense until the outcome of both meetings, both in his favor and in the fifth set. Now I hope he will overcome the third round in his confrontation against Khachanov, which can put him in trouble with his good strategy and, above all, with his right-wing coup, with which he is able to complicate the life of any rival.
Since 2016, the year in which he ranked in number 13 of the ATP classification, Roberto has gone through very difficult vicissitudes in the family plane; the worst, of course, the loss of his mother the week before the last Roland Garros. No one has failed to see, however, the tennis player delivered, fighter and copy for his commitment. A good companion for those who are in the circuit and a good model for those young people we have been talking about so much.