Tennis: Fans fear end of golden era, but show goes on

Tennis: Fans fear end of golden era, but show goes on

Imagine the scenario?

A less informed holder of an expensive US Open men's singles final ticket walks into Louis Armstrong Arena, settles down into a court-side seat and then rubs his eyes in disbelief, checking the smallprint on his stub.

"Where's Djokovic? Federer? Thought he'd be here. How about that Scottish dude...Murray. Nadal??? What the heck?!!!"

A showdown between diminutive 24-year-old Japanese Kei Nishikori and giant, bearded Croat Marin Cilic was not what anyone was really expecting, whether it be fans, pundits or TV executives anxiously checking ratings charts.

It was the first grand slam final since 2005 that one of the so-called Fab Four, be it Federer, Nadal, Djokovic or Murray, was not present. Usually it's two of them.

Barring a few small shuffles, the furniture at the top table of the men's game has remained firmly in place for the best part of a decade.

Now, all of a sudden, the rivalries that have become so familiar, be it Nadal v Federer, Djokovic v Murray or Federer v Djokovic are under threat, be it from seasoned campaigners such as Stanislas Wawrinka, rare talents like Grigor Dimitrov or precocious firebrand Nick Kyrgios.

The top guys say they welcome the challenge, but for fans, it will take a little getting used to. For many of them it is like their favourite TV box set is drawing to a close and they are fretting over what they will watch next.

LAMENT BEGINS

Some are already lamenting the beginning of the end of arguably the greatest era in men's tennis - a period which begun in 2003 and has since seen Federer claim 17 grand slam titles, Nadal 14, Djokovic seven and Murray two.

Only six of the 45 majors on offer since Federer's breakthrough moment against Mark Philippoussis 11 years ago have gone elsewhere - two of them this year with Wawrinka beating Nadal in Melbourne and Cilic overpowering Nishikori.

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