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Last Updated: Monday, 7 July, 2003, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
Classy Federer leads new generation
By Caroline Cheese

Roger Federer
If 2002 was the year in which men's tennis was turned upside down, 2003 is starting to look like a seminal season for its long-term future.

Nowhere was that more evident than on Centre Court when Roger Federer, the most gifted player of his generation, lifted the Wimbledon trophy and put paid to any thoughts that his confidence was too fragile to win major tournaments.

The 21-year-old was earmarked as a future world number one and multiple Grand Slam champion in his junior days, but it has taken him five years to harness his considerable talents towards achieving his lifelong ambition.

His convincing Wimbledon win followed Juan Carlos Ferrero's long-anticipated victory at the French Open, and an eighth Grand Slam title for Andre Agassi at the 2003 Australian Open.

While 33-year-old Agassi's career is nearing its conclusion, Ferrero and Federer's successes represent a bright future for men's tennis.

The last seven Grand Slams have produced seven different winners, including the likes of Albert Costa and Thomas Johansson, but the events of the last fortnight suggest the coming years will see fewer surprise winners.

Andy Roddick, 20, looked every bit the Grand Slam champion in waiting until he came up against an inspired Federer.

Andy Roddick (left) and Roger Federer
Federer beat Roddick this time, but there may be more battles in store

Lleyton Hewitt, too, will bounce back, and in reaching the fourth round Ferrero proved he is not just a clay specialist.

Rafael Nadal, the 17-year-old Spanish sensation, gave the Wimbledon crowd a taste of things to come when he made the third round on his debut, but it is Federer's coming of age that has really set the tennis world buzzing.

The Swiss has been hailed as a throwback to the days of Nastase, McEnroe and Borg, before a generation of heavy-hitting baseliners swamped men's tennis.

Federer, who was near faultless in his last two matches, says he has not even considered emulating 14-times Grand Slam winner Pete Sampras.

He is right to be cautious.

It is unlikely that Sampras's incredible feat in not only setting a record for Slam wins but remaining world number one for six years, another record, will ever be matched.

There is remarkable depth in the men's game. This was never more obvious than in Ivo Karlovic's defeat of defending champion Hewitt on the first day of Wimbledon.

Or in fifth seed Andy Roddick's fiery encounter with an unseeded Greg Rusedski in round two, one of the highlights of the first week.

And in admitting that his title chances were diminishing, Tim Henman pointed to an ever-growing pool of younger players lining up to end his hopes.

There are no such problems for Serena Williams, the women's champion and world number one, who presides over a game which is remarkable only for its lack of depth.

Though she stuttered in the final against her injured sister Venus, Serena's semi-final win against Justine Henin-Hardenne provided ample proof that she is way ahead of the rest.

Serena Williams
Serena back to her brutal best

The top four seeds made it to the semi-finals virtually unchallenged, dropping just three sets between them.

There was just one result in the entire tournament which could be described an upset, the defeat of Jelena Dokic by 16-year-old Wimbledon debutant Maria Sharapova.

In the tournament which saw the Williams sisters show exactly why they should be praised, rather than pilloried, for setting new standards in women's tennis, it was appropriate that their forebear should defy age to win a 20th Wimbledon title.

Thirty years ago, Martina Navratilova introduced never-before-seen levels of professionalism to the women's game with her dedication to fitness and single-minded attitude to winning.

At this year's Wimbledon, the 46-year-old brought a new message of, in her own words, "don't let age be your determining factor".

The young stars of the men's game seem to have already heeded the call.





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