PARTAB RAMCHAND | 30 JUNE, 2019
Can GenNext Halt Dominance of The Big Three?
16 years and still going strong
It’s that time again when the eyes of tennis fans the world over will be focused on the grass courts of the all England club. Yes, it’s the start of Wimbledon 2019 and the main point of interest will be whether the Big Three of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will continue their dominance or whether the GenNext of challengers led by the likes of Kevin Anderson, Stephanos Tsitsipas, Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev can end it.
The Big Three along with Andy Murray have between themselves won every singles title since 2003. That is an unbelievable 16 years with the spoils being shared between Federer (8), defending champion Djokovic (4) and Nadal and Murray twice each. For some time the younger challengers have been climbing up the ladder as far as the rankings are concerned, have been able to get the better of the Big Three occasionally around the ATP Tour circuit and have been winning tournaments including a couple of major competitions. But when it comes to the top three rankings and the four Grand Slams these are seemingly the property of Messrs Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. Just to emphasize this point all the last ten Grand Slam titles since January 2017 have been cornered by The Big Three.
It is of course a tribute to the amazing skill and longevity of the Big Three that they have been able to dominate the scene for so long. Entering Wimbledon they are still the top three seeds and with a total of 53 Grand Slam titles between them one of them is poised to take the number to 54. They are all showing admirable form on court and winning tournaments.
Federer just five weeks short of his 38th birthday won the Halle Open title for a record tenth time a few days ago. Nadal won a record 12th French Open crown earlier this month and in January Djokovic won a record 7th Australian Open crown. Both Nadal and Djokovic are in their early 30s and showing no signs of slowing down. Indeed all three still remain fiercely competitive.
Over the last decade and a half Federer, Nadal, Murray and Djokovic have warded off the challenge from several strong contenders. Most of them have been Grand Slam winners but somehow they have faced a roadblock courtesy this quartet when it comes to lifting the trophy at Wimbledon.
These include the likes of Andy Roddick (who won the US Open but finished runner-up at Wimbledon three times), Marat Safin (who won both the Australian Open and US Open but could only make it to the semifinals at Wimbledon), Stan Wawrinka (who won all the other three Grand Slams but his best at Wimbledon was being a quarterfinalist twice), Juan Martin del Potro (who won the US Open but could not go beyond the semifinals at Wimbledon), Tomas Berdych (whose best was being a finalist at Wimbledon once) and Marin Cilic (who won the US Open but could only make it as far as the final at Wimbledon),
One more point this time in favour of the Big Three is the fact that none of their nearest challengers has a particularly good record at Wimbledon. Anderson would appear to be the best being runner-up last year to Djokovic. Thiem who is more at home on clay (he has been runner-up to Nadal at the French Open the last two years) has never gone beyond the fourth round at Wimbledon. The same goes for Tsitsipas and Zverev.
Under the circumstances there is every reason to believe that the winner at Wimbledon this year will again be one of the Big Three. Tsitsipas arguably the best of the GenNext of players has spoken of his eagerness for a change of guard at Wimbledon. But that is unlikely to happen this year. The Greek who turns 21 in August is a bundle of talent and energy and is looked upon as a future Wimbledon champion. But he may have to wait for some time for the crowning.