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Wimbledon 2024: Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner, Iga Swiatek and Coco Gauff take over tennis

WIMBLEDON, England – There is a real shift taking place at the top of tennis, a youth movement that has long seemed inevitable but has never really taken off until now.

As the sport’s attention shifts to the grass of Wimbledon, where play starts on Monday, Carlos Alcaraz, Jannik Sinner, Iga Swiatek and Coco Gauff are the players whose names are on everyone’s lips.

Alcaraz is the reigning men’s champion and owner of three Grand Slam singles titles at 21 after his French Open triumph. Sinner, 22, is the top-seeded man at Wimbledon and won the Australian Open in January. Swiatek, 23, is the top-seeded woman and just won her fourth Roland Garros championship and fifth major overall. Gauff, the youngest of the bunch at 20, is ranked a career-best No. 2, has reached at least the semifinals at the past three Slam tournaments and won her first such trophy at last year’s US Open.

While Swiatek has established herself at No. 1 in the women’s game and is now 11-1 against Gauff, neither has progressed beyond the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and a much more exciting and intriguing rivalry is developing between Alcaraz and Sinner (Alcaraz leads 5- 4 after winning their semi-final at French Open in five sets). And then there’s this: People have wondered for so long when the men’s game would evolve from the expansive dominance of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, owners of a combined 66 majors, and that trio would cede space to others.

It seems that time has now come, and Alcaraz and Sinner are starting to separate themselves from the rest.

“These two guys will win a lot of Grand Slams. How many? That is the question. Of course they will be the best in the next ten years, I think: Alcaraz and Sinner. I have no doubt about it,” said Richard Gasquet, a three-time major semifinalist, including twice at Wimbledon. “They will be the future of the game. … The new generation is coming.”

Gasquet, a 38-year-old Frenchman who reached No. 7 in the rankings, knows all too well how tough it is to be a professional tennis player in the era of the so-called Big Three of men’s tennis. The opponents in his three Grand Slam semifinal defeats? Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, once each.

But Federer, now 42, played the final match of his career with 20 Slam trophies in 2021. Nadal, 38, lost in the first round at the French Open – where he claimed 14 of his 22 major championships – and then opted out to miss Wimbledon so he could focus on preparing for the Paris Olympics starting at the end of July; he dealt with a series of injuries last year, including hip surgery.

And Djokovic? The owner of a men’s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles was forced to withdraw from the French Open before the quarterfinals after tearing the meniscus in his right knee and undergoing surgery. On Thursday, he was still trying to determine whether his knee had healed enough to compete at the All England Club, where his run of four consecutive trophies ended last year in a five-set loss to Alcaraz in the final.

Sinner was knocked out by Djokovic at Wimbledon the past two years, in the 2022 quarter-finals and 2023 semi-finals. But Sinner won their two most recent encounters, last year in the Davis Cup Finals and this year in the semi-finals of the Australian Open.

Both Alcaraz and Sinner excel in field coverage and big shots. Both also bring excitement, whether it’s Alcaraz’s creative shot-making or Sinner’s all-out diving en route to his first career title on the grass court in Halle, Germany, in June, a rare example of a man taking his first tournament win after debuting at No. 1.

“No one has ever played like Alcaraz. Not a chance. And Sinner? The same,” said Mats Wilander, seven-time Slam champion in the 80s. “They say, ‘Wow! What and where did they come from?’”

Alcaraz and Sinner realize they are well positioned to take over.

They are also aware that they have only just begun on the path to possible greatness.

“We have to look at what we do from here on out,” Sinner said, “(and) do it year after year after year after year.”

Howard Fendrich has been AP’s tennis writer since 2002. Find his stories here: https://apnews.com/author/howard-fendrich

AP Tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis