In 2001, a tennis poster titled “New Balls Please” was released by the ATP which included the new generation of tennis players, many of them whom were young, but who very soon fulfilled the prophecy of being among the best in Tennis. Those players (Gustavo Kuerten; Lleyton Hewitt; Jan-Michael Gambill; Tommy Haas; Juan Carlos Ferrero; Nicolas Lapentti; Mariano Zabaleta; Roger Federer; Marat Safin; Andy Roddick; Mark Philippoussis; Magnus Norman) are still going strong and still having an impact in the game and inspiring new generations of Tennis players.
When that poster originally came out, Rafael Nadal was only 14 so was too young to be noticed at the world scene. However today, both he and Gael Monfils easily represent the next generation of players who are making headlines in Tennis. Gael was the World Junior Champion in 2004 and is currently ranked number 15 in the world. Nadal of course needs no introduction anymore and has already won seven ATP tournaments this year.
Today, I was able to watch both of them play in the 2010 Rakuten Tennis Open Championship Final where Nadal made his Japan debut and for a change I tried my hand in some sports photography. I was surprised to see how many fans Nadal had and even felt it was an unfair advantage going in to the game. Monfils has always been a crowd pleaser and even though he was hurt early in the game, kept his spirits up to show that he was a valid contender.
Nadal proved to be the stronger of the two winning in two straight sets much to the delight of the Tokyo crowd. I, for one, was hoping that the match could go longer since these two seemed to enjoy playing together.