PARTAB RAMCHAND | 14 SEPTEMBER, 2019
Reign of The Big Three Continues - For Now
The Big Three are still calling the shots
Even Rafael Nadal is of the view that the reign of the Big Three cannot last much longer. In an interview a few days ago he was quick to point out that “I am 33, Novak (Djokovic) is 32 and Roger (Federer) is 38. The younger players are bound to take over any time.’’
Well, that may come about in the future, or even in the near future but in the meantime is is still the Big Three who are calling the shots. Nadal’s triumph in the US Open was the 12th successive time one of the Big Three was winning a Grand Slam title. The last player outside the trio to triumph in a Grand Slam was when Stan Wawrinka won the US Open title in 2016. Since then Federer has won the Australian Open in 2017 and 2018 and Wimbledon in 2017, Djokovic has won the Australian Open in 2019, Wimbledon in 2018 and 2019 and the US Open in 2018 and Nadal has the won the US Open in 2017 and 2019 besides emerging triumphant at his favourite French Open in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
The challenge from the younger brigade is getting stronger but while players like Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem are capable of rising up in the rankings, winning ATP Tour tournaments including the Masters 1000 and the year ending ATP Tour finals when it comes to the Grand Slams these are still the monopoly of Messrs Djokovic, Nadal and Federer who continue to occupy the first three positions in the ATP rankings.
At the US Open for a while it appeared that the monopoly could end following the retirement of Djokovic during his fourth round match against Wawrinka due to injury and with Grigor Dimotrov eliminating Federer in the quarterfinal. But Nadal the only remaining survivor of the Big Three did not falter and saw to it that their Grand Slam reign would continue.
Despite their advancing years the feeling is that they will continue to dominate at least in 2020 simply because their nearest young challengers have a rather erratic record in Grand Slams. At the US Open for example Tsitsipas and Thiem exited in the first round while Zverev lost in the fourth round. Fifth ranked Medvedev gave indications of what could come about in the near future by making it to the final and stretching Nadal to five sets before going down. But then he hasn’t made much progress in the other Grand Slams and that goes too for the likes of Tsitsipas and Zverev. Thiem had made it to the French Open final twice losing each time to Nadal but then he is a clay court specialist and is unlikely to make any impact in the other Grand Slams. This year Thiem also lost in the first round at Wimbledon.
But if indications are that the Big Three will continue their dominance at least for a while the women’s field remains absolutely open. This year for example each of the four Grand Slams was won by a different player. Naomi Osaka won the Australian Open, Ashleigh Bartey the French Open, Simona Halep triumphed at Wimbledon while relatively unknown Bianca Andreescu took the title at the US Open. Almost every week a new No 1 emerges, players climb and slip in the rankings as a matter of routine and tournaments around the WTA circuit are won by different players. It is almost like anyone in the top ten could win a Grand Slam and anyone in the top ten could rise to No 1 in the rankings. And then you have someone like Andreescu who was ranked No 178 at the start of the year but went on to win the US Open.
Amidst all this spare a thought for Serena Williams. She turns 38 in two weeks time and time is certainly running out for her as she aims to equal Margaret Court’s all time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles. She has been stuck on 23 since winning the Australian Open in 2017 following which she had her baby which resulted in her dropping out of the circuit and hurtling down the rankings to 181 by the time of Wimbledon 2018. Since then the great champion has fought back to be within the top ten, has made the finals at Wimbledon twice and US Open twice but has stumbled each time. With an array of sparkling young talent ranged against her it looks difficult for her to achieve her ultimate goal but then with Serena one supposes nothing is really impossible.