Sunday, 21 November 2010

Roger worried about lack of youth

Roger Federer is concerned by the lack of young talent rising to the top of the men's game.

The field for the end-of-season ATP World Tour Finals, starting at London's O2 Arena on Sunday, contains only one debutant - 25-year-old Tomas Berdych.

At 23, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are the youngest players but neither can be called a newcomer, with Murray making his third consecutive appearance and Djokovic his fourth.

The pair were both inside the world's top 100 at the age of 18 and were swiftly followed by Juan Martin Del Potro and Marin Cilic, both of whom have since made it to the top 10.

But over the last couple of years the talent stream has dried up and a glance at the top 100 today reveals not one teenager - 19-year-old Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov at 114 is the highest placed.

Federer was another player to make the top 100 before his 20th birthday, and he feels the difficulties young players are experiencing reflects the strength in depth and changing nature of the game.

The Swiss said: "There's not a whole lot of promising newcomers. I was asking myself the question, why don't we have any teenagers in the top 100? I'm not even sure we have many players under 21 or 22 in the top 100.

"It's quite surprising to me because when I was coming up with Lleyton Hewitt, Marat Safin, Andy Roddick, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Tommy Haas, they were all excellent players and in the top 100 as teenagers.

"It was a normal thing. Boris Becker won Wimbledon and Michael Chang won the French Open. On the women's side it was even more extreme. But now they have a similar trend it seems.

"Maybe the game has become more physical and more mental and that's why players today need a bit more time to break through, which can be seen as a good thing but also a bad thing."

Federer will begin his search for a fifth title at the end-of-season showpiece with a Group B match against David Ferrer on Sunday evening.

British No 1 Murray and Robin Soderling play earlier in the day while Group A is made up of Rafael Nadal, Djokovic, Roddick and Wimbledon finalist Berdych.

Group B is certainly not short of form players, with all four having won titles over the last month, while it also has the added spice of a third meeting in quick succession between Federer and Murray, who won their battles in Toronto and Shanghai.

"We know each other really well now," said Federer. "He's had another really good season and he's beaten me the last two times so it's obviously a tough group, but I think they're even.

"In our group it seems like we all know we're playing well. Ferrer won Valencia, I won a bunch of tournaments just now and have won many matches, Murray won in Shanghai and Soderling just won Paris. In the other group maybe it's a bit more up in the air."

Like Murray, Federer has had something of an up and down year. Unusually, he has failed to reach a grand slam final since the Australian Open in January while Nadal is now a clear world No 1, but the 29-year-old has ended the season in good shape with titles in Basle and Stockholm.

He added: "My game's right there where I want it to be, it's just a case now of showing it on the scoreboard, which is not an easy thing, especially against top-10 players.

"But it's the ninth time I've qualified in a row for the World Tour Finals so I know the drill."

Courtesy: Telegraph

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