The new generation is upon us.
While the clock may have rolled back on the men's side of the 2014 Wimbledon final with another duel between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, a bevy of young names once again had strong form during a season in which the old guard continues to slowly pass the torch.
It seems a matter of time before the bubble pops and new faces take over the sport for good. The transition had to occur at some point, although many were unsure if it would happen so soon.
Based on the ever-improving form of some future stars, Wimbledon came dangerously close to being the passing-of-the-torch moment. Alas, several of the next generation of stars put together a strong two weeks to build on for the eventual takeover.
They are as follows.
At just 23 years old, Canadian Milos Raonic gave the 2014 Wimbledon his best shot and wound up deep in the proceedings and the overall ace leader by the time things had concluded.
The first Canadian to reach the Wimbledon semifinals since Robert Powell in 1908, Raonic breezed through competition such as Jack Sock (6-3, 6-4, 6-4), Lukasz Kubot (7-6, 7-6, 6-2), No. 10 seed Kei Nishikori (4-6, 6-1, 7-6, 6-3) and Nick Kyrgios (6-7, 6-2, 6-4, 7-6) before meeting Federer in the final four.
ESPN Stats & Info notes another record he managed to shatter in the process:
"It's another step forward," Raonic said before his semifinal battle, per Dennis Passa of The Associated Press. "The goal is to be the best player in the world and this is one of those steps that you have to take to keep getting better."
In that match, Raonic put forth a futile effort and succumbed, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. While a setback, the appearance marks his first time in the semifinal of a Grand Slam, which represents an ever-improving resume after reaching the third round at the Australian Open and the quarterfinals at the French Open.
Should he continue his excellent play, Raonic will be well on his way to taking down other records en route to becoming one of the best players on the planet. His best-ever performance at a Grand Slam the past two weeks is a strong building block for a future that looks rather bright.
If the rest of the women's field isn't trembling at the thought of Eugenie Bouchard's prime, it should be.
The Canadian is just 20 years old, yet her season has been consistent—to say the least—reaching the semifinals at the Australian and French Opens before heading to the final at Wimbledon as the No. 13 seed.
Yes, Bouchard was blown away by another fast riser in Petra Kvitova (6-3, 6-0), but the loss had to do more with her opponent's near-perfect play than something being wrong with her game. Kvitova was simply a buzzsaw, as one can tell by Bouchard's four unforced errors in the face of the onslaught.
As the old adage goes, though, it's about the journey. Her trip to a third-consecutive semifinals round was quite the escapade, with wins over No. 20 seed Andrea Petkovic (6-3, 6-4), No. 25 Alize Cornet (7-6, 7-5), No. 9 Angelique Kerber (6-3, 6-4) and No. 3 Simona Halep (6-3, 6-0).
As she admits, the trophy for her hard work was not exactly the one she had in mind:
But Bouchard gained something more special over the course of the past two weeks—affirmation that she can dance with anyone in the sport and, perhaps most important of all, that her continued success is the furthest thing from a fluke.
Another 23-year-old in the midst of a breakthrough year, Grigor Dimitrov ran roughshod over the competition in London before encountering Djokovic in the semifinals.
The tournament's No. 11 seed had a rather modest start to the proceedings with wins over Ryan Harrison (7-6, 6-3, 6-2), Luke Saville (6-3, 6-2, 6-4), No. 21 Alexandr Dolgopolov (6-7, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1) and Leonardo Mayer (6-4, 7-6, 6-2).
But then, in the quarterfinals no less, Dimitrov scored perhaps what may be a career-defining victory over one Andy Murray (6-1, 7-6, 6-2), the No. 3 seed and defending champ. It was a career first for the Bulgarian star:
After reaching his first career Grand Slam quarterfinal earlier at the Australian Open, it was but a matter of time before Dimitrov broke through again. It came quickly, as his first-ever semifinals appearance at a major was also a competitive one, with him even stealing a set from Djokovic before losing, 4-6, 6-3, 6-7, 6-7.
Dimitrov has not been without his growing pains, blowing consecutive set points against Djokovic in a tiebreak scenario, which reminded some of similar hiccups he had against Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals in Australia.
Regardless, Dimitrov understands how important the last two weeks have been:
While not the desired end result, Dimitrov's tournament will prove to be an important stepping stone that many of the greats have taken in recent years. Along with the others outlined above, Dimitrov has quite the bright future.
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