Over the course of the past few weeks, three of the most noteworthy accomplishments on the ATP Tour have been:
* Robin Soderling winning back-to-back tournaments in Rotterdam and Marseille.
* Young gun Milos Raonic capturing his first career title in San Jose, then making the finals a week later in Memphis.
* Juan Martin del Potro—the 2009 U.S. Open champion—coming back from a serious injury and reaching the semis in back-to-back tournaments in San Jose and Memphis.
The three have similar mind-sets and playing styles when it comes to getting on the court: Hit hard, then hit harder. After that, throw in a little more hard hitting!
Seriously, though, while the foundation is built around powerful play, the other tools necessary for success are there, such as a willingness to go to the net instead of just pounding the ball from the baseline.
And, at least in the cases of Soderling and del Potro, there has been evident accomplishments on various surfaces: Soderling is a two-time French Open finalist whose three titles this year have all been in fast conditions and del Potro once had a four-tournament winning streak that started off with victories on clay and finished with wins on U.S. hard courts.
Will there be a counterpuncher like David Ferrer in the top 10 in the men's rankings in five years?
For all the talent those four possess, they simply can't match the firepower generated by Soderling, del Potro and Raonic. A task once considered unthinkable—beating Nadal and Federer back-to-back in a Slam—has already happened with del Potro's U.S. Open win. The way 2011 has started for Soderling, it's almost looking like it's only a matter of time before he pulls off the same feat.
As for Raonic, there has been plenty of talk about him being the next big thing, with some also mentioning that his run of good form could be considered a fluke because of all the free points he gets on his serve. The truth of the matter, though, is that it's extremely rare for a 20-year-old to win a number of matches in a row, as well as make it to the fourth round of a Grand Slam, without having a solid game. Granted, his serve does help ease the pressure when he's returning his opponents' deliveries, but to execute consistently against veterans like Mardy Fish and Fernando Verdasco says a lot.
The men's game played from the baseline has always been a sport in transition with power shaping the course,as it's moved from Ivan Lendl to Jim Courier to Marat Safin to Roger Federer and now, Soderling, del Potro and Raonic. The only one of the latter three playing this week is del Potro in Delray Beach and it's only a matter of time before he picks up his first tournament victory post-surgery, which would be a powerful statement for himhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jlWBG0fNOscas well as the future of the game.