The 2020 tennis season is poised to be a historic year for men’s tennis. The “Big 3” of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic are continuing their saga of raising the bar of competition. With Nadal now at 19 Grand Slam crowns, this year’s Australian Open is the first time that Nadal could catch Federer’s total number of Major titles.
Big 3 Domination
For the better part of the last two decades, basically all of the attention in the tennis world has been on Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic. And rightly so. Sport…has never seen such a prolonged, intense rivalry as we have seen with the Big 3. With more and more technological and training advances in the sport, it has seemed to matter less and less. The NextGen athleticism and hunger has been no match for the mastery of the Big 3.
At the end of 2019 we seemed to see something different from the Next Gen. They started to beat the Big 3 more often and it seemed less surprising. Zverev took down Federer in Shanghai and Nadal in London. Medvedev took out Djokovic in Cincinnati and made the final of Montreal and the US Open. Dominic Thiem (if you are still counting him as NectGen) beat Federer and Djokovic in succession at the ATP Finals. And the golden boy of tennis Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Djokovic in Shanghai and Federer at the ATP Finals (which he went on to win).
Is the Future Now?
2020 seems like it will finally be the year that a Grand Slam will be won by someone who has been on tour for less than 10 years. The last time that happened was when Juan Martin Del Potro did the impossible at the 2009 US Open, beating Nadal and then Federer to win… at age 21.
Thiem, Medvedev, Tsitsipas, and Zverev have all beaten the Big 3 on big stages. Never in Grand Slam finals, though. I believe this is the year they can do it. Their belief is there. Their game is definitely there. It’s time for it all to come together for at least one of them to win a Slam and their first opportunity is at the Australian Open.
Zverev, Thiem, and Medvedev are in Nadal’s top half of the draw. Medvedev and Zverev have the opportunity to make it to the Semi-Finals without having to play Nadal. An opportunity that is more likely to play head games with Zverev who has felt immense pressure to make it deep in a Slam for a few years now.
Tsitsipas has the ultimate test of being in Djokovic’s corner. The seven-time Aussie Open champ will be a test of Tsitsipas’ mental level. The young Greek beat Federer in last year’s 4th round in a gutsy, level headed performance and he will be up against it this year to do the same vs. Djokovic.
Who will step up and be the first to win a Slam? Only time will tell. But as the transition to the future continues to be pushed back by the greatness of the Big 3, we will continue to enjoy every minute of it.
by Stephen Boughton, founder and wizard @theslicetennis