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Portes sees vacuum at the top in men’s tennis

Ex-French Davis Cupper feels it will be difficult to replace Federer, Nadal

Image Credit: Alaric Gomes/Gulf News
Former tennis player Pascal Portes, now COO at Matchplay Hospitality.
Gulf News

Dubai: French Davis Cupper Pascal Portes feels that the tennis fraternity may have to wait for a while before the younger generation can fill a huge void to be left behind by tennis legends, namely Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Portes, who now heads Fifa’s Match Hospitality as its Chief Operating Officer (COO), was in Dubai last week to launch the sale of packages for the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia in less than two years’ time. “Next year, we will see the same players at the top of men’s tennis. But maybe we may not have the likes of Nadal and Federer due to the injuries that the two have had this year,” Portes said.

“Nadal is capable of still being part of the top with the type of game he has. But of late he has always been recovering from injuries and that makes it difficult in tennis. As far as Federer goes, this is perhaps the first time we see him out for so long. I have no idea how serious his knee injury is or how much motivated he is going to be while making a comeback now,” he added.

The ATP Men’s Rankings are led by two 29-year-olds, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, and despite Nadal and Federer slipping off their customary top-four posts, the only youngster featuring in the top 10 is 23-year-old Austrian Dominic Thiem with a No.8 finish to the season. Nadal has managed to hang in at No.9 while Federer has slipped into No.16.

“There are some good tennis players out there, but it will still take some time before the big void is filled in by the young guns of tennis,” Portes said.

The 57-year-old, who was part of the French Davis Cup team on four occasions between 1979 to 1984, observed that Djokovic and Murray may show less hunger to cling on at the top after personal achievements this season. “Djokovic’s main goal was to win the French Open as that was the only Grand Slam missing. After that he won in Paris it looked as though the fire was gone, and maybe he lost a bit of interest,” Portes said.

“With Murray too, it may be the same after ending the season for the first time as world number one. There is no doubt that he fully deserves being there but whether he has the hunger to stay put remains to be seen,” the Frenchman added.

“The good thing, however, is players like Federer and Nadal have shown their hunger to continue playing while promising to be back next season. And that can only be good for tennis as it will give the youngsters some more time to eventually try and fill the void.”