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Is the ‘Big 3’ Waiting for the ‘NextGen’ to Fill their Tennis Shoes?

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The ‘Big 3’ in tennis have dominated the ATP circuit for 17 years winning 55 of the last 68 Grand Slams in tennis at an astounding success rate of 81%. Federer now has 20 major singles titles, making him the all-time Grand Slam leader among the men, though Nadal (19) and Djokovic (17) are not far behind. Even more so, the Big 3 have gone on streaks of 18 and 11 straight wins without an outsider winning one (in 2005-2009 and 2010-2012), not to mention a current streak of 13.

We are extremely fortunate to witness this era of men’s tennis. Not only have we seen the highest level of tennis ever played, but we have seen three future legends: Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic climb to unprecedented heights of the sport.

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Big 3
The Big 3 have won a total of 56 Grand Slams in their career.

On the other hand, nature has its pros and cons. The saddening reality would be the nearing of the end of a magnificent era as Federer turned 39 this year, while Nadal isn’t very far behind at 34 and Djokovic at 33. It is incredible to still see them at the top of the ATP rankings, especially after the influx of new talent and the next generation knocking on their door. With the likes of Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev proving time and again that they are capable of becoming future Grand Slam winners by winning ATP 1000 events, they have failed to replicate the success in the majors.

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Fans have been so accustomed to seeing either Federer, Nadal, or Djokovic winning major titles that it’s turned into a feeling of normalcy. Even when it seems that their command over the sport is declining, whether it’s at the hands of Big 4 add-ins like Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka or young stars on the rise like Grigor Dimitrov and Daniil Medvedev, the Big 3 still prevails. Even now, when all three players compete over the age of 32, major championships still end the same way they did 15 years ago.

The moment when the Big 3 retire one-by-one, will be an awfully tough experience for tennis lovers. Soon gone will be the effortless elegance of Roger Federer. Gone will be the relentless drive and never-say-die attitude of Rafael Nadal. Gone will be the ever so frustrating athleticism and passion displayed by Novak Djokovic. Soon, there will be a new King of Clay to succeed Nadal’s relentless dominance. Federer’s ownership of SW-19 will be turned over. The sound of Djokovic’s sliding shoes on hard court will never be the same again.

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Is the 'Big 3' Waiting for the 'NextGen' to Fill their Tennis Shoes? - THE SPORTS ROOM

It’s uncertain of how long it will be until one decides it’s time to bid adieu to tennis, but all we can do as fans is to enjoy every moment that these legends step onto the court and be ever so grateful to live and enjoy this for so long.

Here’s a look at the NextGen who will be looking to succeed the Big 3 :

Dominic Thiem

Dominic Thiem, who is the only other player in the top 4 outside of the Big 3 with a current rating over 2,400. His comparatively longer journey to a Grand Slam title could be the result of playing in the same era as Nadal, the “King of Clay”. Thiem, a clay court specialist, has come up short to Nadal twice in the French Open final (2018, 2019).

At 26 years old, he’s already reached the finals of three Grand Slam events in the last three years. He’s been increasingly impressive on tour and hit his high with 5 titles and one additional finals appearance in 2019. Thiem’s aggressive one-handed backhand is one of the best on tour and easily the strongest shot in his game. but if Thiem wants to put himself amongst those players, he needs to become more consistent, as well as improve his game outside of clay to become less of a clay-court specialist and improve on other surfaces as well.

Alexander Zverev

Zverev was the champion at the 2018 ATP Finals, which had made him the youngest winner at the year-end championship in a decade. He is the only active player outside of the Big Four with three ATP Masters 1000 titles.

His height gives him the advantage of a big server and his consistency in winning long rallies could give him a possible edge of winning more titles and Grand Slams in the future. He has beaten all of the Big 3 in crucial matches and only needs to build upon his consistency in the coming years.

Stefano Tsitsipas

The 21-year-old Greek has climbed to number six in world rankings and ended the 2019 season by winning the ATP Finals crown in his maiden appearance.

The young Greek has shown his arsenal of skills by upsetting Roger Federer in the quarters of the Australian Open in 2019. He was won 5 ATP titles in his young career and only looks like he is getting even better and soon become a Grand Slam Champion.

Is the 'Big 3' Waiting for the 'NextGen' to Fill their Tennis Shoes? - THE SPORTS ROOM

“I love the fact that he is more than just a tennis player and he’s always looking to learn from the experience and to understand something new about himself so he can improve, get better”

“That for me is a trait of a champion, of someone that for sure has a great potential to be No. 1 of the world and win Grand Slams”, said Novak Djokovic on the Greek’s future in the sport.

Team Europe's composed of (From down L) Captain Thomas Enqvist, Alexander Zverev, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Captain Bjorn Borg (From up R) Fabio Fognini and Dominic Thiem celebrate after winning the 2019 Laver Cup.
Team Europe’s composed of (From down L) Captain Thomas Enqvist, Alexander Zverev, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Captain Bjorn Borg (From up R) Fabio Fognini and Dominic Thiem celebrate after winning the 2019 Laver Cup.

The Big 3 have not made it easy for the NextGen to come in and dominate the sport, so it is going to take some stopping from the young guns and more importantly, a drastic improvement in their consistency levels, if they have any shot at winning future Grand Slams and a broader aim to replicate the legends of the sport who undoubtedly are future Hall of Famers in the tennis world.


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