What happens to the teenage sensation of years past ?
Surely no American could forget those good years, when three American (Sampras, Agassi, Chang) were all in the top 10 before their 20th birthday, and two of them were Slam champions. As a bonus, Jim Courier was in top 30 before his 20th birthday.
The American players enjoyed a relatively long period (about 10 years) before the next crop of teenagers started to make a splash. These were Leyton Hewitt, Roddick, Federer, Safin, Nalbandian. This group was not as impressive as their American teenage predecessors, but still, Hewitt was top 8, Roddick, top 20, Safin and Federer, top 30, and Nalbandian, top 50 before their 20th birthday.
Federer broke away from this group, but not too long afterward (only five years later), another crop of teenagers were hot on his heel. Nadal was ranked number 2 at 19, Murray, Djokovic, and Gasquet, top 20, and Del Potro, top 50.
Nadal broke away from this group and presented formidable challenge to Federer and is currently ranked number 1 and dwarfed his teenage contemporaries in Slam wins, much as Federer had done before.
But the supply of top notched teeange players seems to have run out, at least for the moment. Can you name a teenager in the top 20 ? How about top 50 ? How about top 100 ? No, you would have to go all the way to number 136 to find Grigor Dimitrov.
This might benefit Nadal as he makes a go at Federer's record, but does this mean the ATP is going the way of the WTA after Nadal's generation hangs it up, or it just takes longer for players to mature these days ? Let's hope for the latter.
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