I've been thinking a lot about what tennis will look like many more years down the line.
Ever since 2003, right after Roger Federer had won his first Wimbledon, I've been watching tennis very actively and I have seen a lot of changes in both the technical and mental aspects of the game portrayed through a wide variety of players.
There have been tremendous changes in the physical aspect of the game too, and it's all been positive.
Players these days can hit stokes with even more power than the ones 10 years ago. Physically, it's a very demanding sport. Gone are the days where you'd hit a huge serve and instantly run to the net and swat away the incoming return for a critical winner. You can hardly see points that are scored within 10 seconds.
Some of the best players these days seem to hit passing shots from a wide range of angles, completely astounding some of the few remaining serve-volley players of today—if any actually remain. The defensive game of many of the players has been nothing short of unbelievable. An unquestionable winning serve in the early 2000's can now be challenged and sent back as a winner in return today.
All in all, the quality of tennis has been getting better and better.
So, having seen how the game has changed over the past decade, let's contemplate what the game will look like five years from now, or even 10 years into the future.
To be clear, each of the following predictions are hypothetical and based on personal opinion.
Tennis will still be a power baseline game, and it will get even more physical in years to come. I don't see any one person dominating the sport for many different seasons. Rather, I believe that we will see a lot of players who will win 1-3 slams, rather than seeing one or two players winning six or seven of them.
Racquet technology is going to get better, and so will the ball strike and pace. I can also see drop-shots being played even more often than they are today. In fact, drop-shots could be the only way to end a point faster, and they could also be the only time an opponent would probably get to the net. A good first serve would become extremely crucial since no second serve is going to be spared, and the one-handed backhand might be a rarity.
The defensive capabilities will get unbelievably crazy, and matches could very easily take 3-5 hours, on average. I can also see tennis careers getting finished by the time players have had 5-6 years of match play, and injuries could make things even worse. It's probably the No. 1 reason I don't see any one player holding their place at the top of the rankings for a long time.
So, looking at what tennis will look like in 2015 and beyond, a question that's begging to be asked is this: What's the ideal kind of a player that might withstand this onslaught and be able to win 5-6 slams or more in order to make a legacy for themselves?
The only player that could come out on top convincingly and give even a slight hint of domination would be one with a mixture of styles from different eras. They would need to have the serve of a Sampras, the mental toughness/physicality of Nadal, the volley of a McEnroe/Sampras, the backhand of a Djokovic and a forehand of Tsonga or Federer. And not only that, but in order to maintain the longevity of their game, they would need to play freely and effortlessly with a natural flow, like Federer.
Unfortunately, I don't see anyone, either now or in the distant future, being that good of a player. Although Djokovic seems to be having quite a run, and it will be interesting to see how long he can carry on with his magic.
All in all, I believe tennis is going to get more one-dimensional, and probably a little monotonous too. With almost all players having very similar styles, I also don't think we'll witness any more records being broken, at least not for another 10 years.
And most of all, I just cannot imagine tennis without Federer and Rafa in the mix.