Published On: Tue, May 23rd, 2023
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Andy Murray withdrawal signals the end of an era as Novak Djokovic left to fly the flag | Tennis | Sport

Andy Murray recently withdrew from the upcoming French Open as he looked to focus on the grass season. With Rafael Nadal also pulling out and Roger Federer retiring last year, it marks the first time since the three men turned pro that they have all missed the same Grand Slam. With Novak Djokovic left to fly the Big Four flag on his own in Paris, it signals the end of an era as new, young names come to the forefront as title contenders.

The Big Four once dominated the sport, holding the world No 1 ranking between them from February 2004 to February 2022 and winning a combined 67 Grand Slam titles in the last 20 years. It was always inevitable that their era would eventually draw to a close, with Federer now 41 while the rest enter their late thirties.

But this year’s French Open is a signal that their collective stronghold on the sport is well and truly ending. It is the first Grand Slam that Murray, Nadal and Federer have all missed since they first turned pro, with the Swiss star retiring last year. And even Djokovic isn’t the nailed-on favourite that he usually is at a Major.

There are valid reasons Murray and Nadal’s absences in Paris – the Brit wants to focus on grass where he believes he can have a good run, while the 14-time French Open champion has been forced out by an injury and will now take a break with the view of returning for a farewell season in 2024. But in a game that was once almost guaranteed to see one of four men lift the title at the end of the tournament, the draw is wide open this year.

Djokovic has been struggling with an elbow injury and went 5-3 on the clay season, failing to win a title on the surface ahead of the French Open for the first time since 2018. It leaves top seed Carlos Alcaraz as one of the main title contenders, with fellow 20-year-old Holger Rune also establishing himself as one of the favourites.

The Serb himself has already admitted that a new era had arrived, speaking after Rune defeated him in the Rome quarter-final. “Obviously, a new generation is here already,” he sid after his second career defeat to the young Dane.

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