The End of the Big 4, The Rise of the NextGen

by Ishaan Sati

It’s time to talk about the elephant in the room.

 

After years of dominating the Masters 1000 tournaments on the ATP World Tour, the big 4’s astounding reign has finally come to an end.

 

Let’s give their dominance a good look.

In order to understand the full extent of their empire, consider this: From March 2008 to May 15th, 2017, the big 4 accounted for 75 out of 85 Masters titles (at an 88.2% win rate). Even more impressive: Between April 2010 and May 15, 2017, they gobbled up a whopping 58 out of 63 masters events (at a 92% win rate).

 

The past one year though has been an entirely different story. Beginning from Rome 2017 to Madrid 2018, the Big 4 could only capture 2 events (Roger in Shanghai 2017 and Rafa in Monte Carlo 2018). With the loss of form (Djokovic), injuries (Murray and sometimes Nadal), and careful scheduling (Federer), it is unlikely they will ever get back to their glorious peak.

Is it time for tennis fans to worry though?

Not quite.

 

We are noticing a trend in 2018

2018 has seen a rise in the number of young players making deep runs in masters 1000 events. At Indian Wells, we saw ATP NextGen winner Hyeon Chung and rising star Borna Coric make the quarterfinals. Chung’s impressive run only was stopped in its tracks by the then-unbeaten Roger Federer. Coric did one better than Chung, reaching the semis and making Roger sweat for a tight 3 set win.

 

The 2018 Miami Open saw a similar trend. Chung and Coric again reached the last 8, proving that the results in Indian Wells weren’t a fluke. 2 time Masters winner and possible future world no 1, Alexander Zverev, also made it to the quarters. While Chung was stopped by the in-form John Isner (who went on to win the tournament), Coric was defeated by fellow next genner Zverev, who went on to reach the final.

 

Moving on to the clay court season, the much-awaited return of Rafael Nadal to tennis dominated the headlines. In a tournament filled with thrilling matches, Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem were amongst the quarterfinalists This tournament saw Zverev win 3 matches in the deciding set before finally caving to Nishikori in the semis, thereby displaying his improving mental game. Thiem, on the other hand, was impressive against Djokovic but was soundly beaten by Nadal (6-0, 6-2).

 

Finally, we had the Madrid Masters. With four quarter-finalists under the age of 24, this tournament has seen young players breaking new ground. 3 out of these 4 quarterfinalists (Thiem, Zverev, Shapovalov) made it into the semifinals. Kyle Edmund, the only one to fail to make it to the semis was beaten by fellow youngster Denis Shapovalov in an absolute thriller. This is Shapovalov’s second masters 1000 semifinal; a massive achievement considering that he hasn’t even turned 20. As an icing on the cake, we had a great final between 2 NextGen stars in Zverev and Thiem with Zverev winning his 3rd Masters 1000 in the last 12 months.

 

This is the future of men’s tennis

In short, the last few months may have set the tone for the remainder of this season and possibly for the better half of the next decade: The big 4 are finally in the twilight of their dominance and the next gen taking over is no longer idle talk.

 

The next generation is here. While they have impossibly massive shoes to fill, it will be awesome watching them attempt to carry the torch from the Big 4.

 

  • Ishaan Sati brings THE SLICE from India.

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