With Roger Federer, the tennis world said goodbye to one of the best players of all time last week. Not only because of his 20 Grand Slam titles does the Swiss leave big footsteps that need to be filled – by his eternal rivals Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, by newcomer Carlos Alcaraz and also by Olympic champion Alexander Zverev.

    Admittedly, the bickering and strife for supremacy in post-Federer tennis isn’t just beginning. With the exception of his farewell game at the Laver Cup in London, the Swiss was last on the court in an ATP match in the summer of 2021.

    Now the 41-year-old is finally making room for a new generation that will inherit the Maestro. This is the tennis hierarchy according to Federer.

    The era according to Federer begins with two oldies. Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have dominated the sport for more than 15 years. The current ATP year shows that even at the age of 35 or 36, the eternal Federer opponents can still be expected.

    Nadal was in excellent shape, especially at the beginning of the year. The Spaniard fought back after a number of injuries and won both the Australian and the French Open. With 22 record Grand Slam titles, Nadal is already a living legend.

    A big question mark always hovers over the health of the 36-year-old. Nadal was injured at Wimbledon, and his chronically ill left foot also regularly causes problems. For now, Nadal is third in the world rankings. Nevertheless, it remains uncertain how long Nadal, who is undoubtedly in the autumn of his career, can maintain this level.

    Djokovic is ‘still hungry’

    The same goes for Djokovic as well. After his vaccination scandal in January, the Serb recently fell behind in terms of sport. Despite his Wimbledon victory in the summer, the 35-year-old is “only” seventh in the ATP ranking – worse than it has been in over four years.

    The career end of the exceptional player, who experts have on the list of favorites before every major tournament, is not yet in sight. “I’m still hungry and I have a great passion for the game. As long as I have this feeling, I will continue,” he announced a few days ago.

    Besides Andy Murray is Incidentally Daniel Medvedev the only player to oust the “Big Three” from the top of the world rankings since 2004. Fluctuating performances and the exclusion of Russian athletes in Wimbledon recently threw the 26-year-old back.

    In the last few weeks and months, there are two youngsters in particular who have inspired the tennis world: Casper Ruud and Carlos Alcaráz.

    The Norwegian Ruud penetrated into the absolute ATP elite this year. The 23-year-old was in the finals in both Paris and New York, but lost both. Nonetheless, a title in one of the big four tournaments seems only a matter of time.

    Despite his young age, Ruud consistently plays well – on any surface. Sometimes quickly labeled as a clay court player, the right-hander showed, especially at the US Open, that he is also a force to be reckoned with on hard court.

    Alcaraz and Ruud met in the final of the US Open

    Mini-Nadal plays ‘more like Federer’

    Meanwhile, Alcaraz is about to have what is possibly their greatest career. After his meteoric rise with victories in Miami, Madrid and the US Open, the 19-year-old is already at the top of the tennis throne and leading the world rankings.

    The teenage sensation inspires tennis fans with his carefree and rip-off game. Of course, his Spanish homeland and his performances on clay are ideal for Nadal comparisons. But Alcaraz said himself: “My game is more like Federer’s. I like to play very aggressively, with a lot of winning strokes.”

    Unpredictable stops and deadly volleys are among Federer’s and Alcaraz’ great strengths. The youngster is already well on his way to climbing the tennis hierarchy.

    A number of big names are on the side of the challengers: above all those who have been in good form recently Frances Tiafoe and Nick Kyrgios. The Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas was often considered the legitimate successor to the “Big Three” in recent years, but has yet to prove it in the form of major titles.

    The situation is similar with Germany’s tennis star Alexander Zverev. The man from Hamburg undoubtedly has the potential for a great career, which he proved not least with his Olympic victory in Tokyo. Nevertheless, Zverev is still waiting for his first Grand Slam title.

    Unlike the younger Alcaraz and Ruud, Zverev often let his nerves down in big tournaments. It took Zverev six years to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal after his ATP debut, Alcaraz only needed a year and a half for the same mark.

    Zverev threatens “many and very long problems”

    The fact that Zverev is not listed as heir to the throne in the post-Federer era, but only as a challenger, is not least due to his current injury. At this year’s French Open, the 25-year-old destroyed the entire ligaments in his ankle.

    In rehab, however, he “did too much,” explained Zverev two weeks ago. This resulted in bone edema and “extreme pain”. With heavy loads there is a risk that the bone will even break. “Then I would have a lot of problems for my career and for a very long time,” he explained.

    There is currently no reliable information about a downtime of Germany’s number one. After that, the uncertainty remains as to how long Zverev will need to find his way back to top form.

    Tom Kuehner