Growing up, I used to be a big tennis fan.
Played a bit myself, actually have a trophy and a few certificates to show for my efforts.
School holidays were spent watching Stefan Edberg, Andre Agassi, Ivan Lendl, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and a klompie ander manne winning Grand Slams.
It could have gone to anyone back in the day – except on grass where Pistol Pete dominated later on – such was the competitiveness of the game.
Along came the trio of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic to completely spoil the sport for me.
I hate one-way traffic and for years it felt as if the other ouens were only playing for spek and boontjies – that’s until this year’s French Open.
Wow, have I been glued to my TV set over the last week or so.
Admittedly, I haven’t seen much of the youngsters in action and entered the tournament in search of a reason to watch tennis again.
Carlos Alcaraz was the first rookie to catch my eye, the Mrs and I immediately dubbed the 18 year old Spaniard the next Rafael Nadal.
We’re desperate for the next big thing, I know. But Alcaraz is good – check him out if you haven’t seen him yet.
Anyway, he was knocked out in the third round by Jan-Lennard Struff, and while I expect to see more from him in years to come, he’s not my new favourite.
Some of you may know that I’m a big sucker for a fairytale and therefore I watched 39-year-old Federer closely. Coming back from knee surgery at that age is no easy feat.
His third round match against German Dominik Koepfer on Saturday night into early Sunday morning was worth staying awake for.
Koepfer pushed Fed all the way, but the veteran pulled through in the end and I started feeling that maybe it was okay if, for the laaste keer, an ou man wins the tournament.
Federer wasn’t himself in that match, though. And when he pulled out on Monday to stay fresh for Wimbledon, I wasn’t THAT disappointed.
Still, I had no favourite and desperately wanted to see 19-year-old Jannik Sinner against Nadal. I actually just wanted to see him beat Nadal.
To warm up, I then watched Lorenzo Musetti against world No.1 Novak Djokovic.
Nog a 19-year-old from Italy. And to my surprise – there he was: the next big thing.
Playing in his first Grand Slam tournament, Musetti wide-eyed me with his array of shots and allround flair on the court.
Could this really be the guy?
After winning the first two sets, a star was born.
But then cramp set in for the laaitie and Djoker wiped the court with him – so much so that he ended up calling it quits before the world No.1 could win the final set 6-0.
After that match it was Sinner against Nadal and after failing to keep serve to win the first set, the Italian succumbed to the class and power of Nadal.
So it was not yet time to pass the baton, but in the likes of Alcaraz, Musetti and Sinner tennis’s future has arrived. And I’ll be watching closely again.
Until then Djoker and Nadal look set to meet in the semis on Friday, with Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev in the other final-four showdown.