PARTAB RAMCHAND | 30 OCTOBER, 2019
Big Three Vs Gen Next - The Battle Intensifies
The battle rages on
The Big Three vs The GenNext. The battle rages on as Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer try to maintain their hold at the top of the ATP rankings and the Grand Slam events while the leaders of the GenNext of players, Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, Daniil Medvedev of Russai, Dominic Thiem of Austria and Alexander Zverev of Germany try their best to overtake them in the rankings.
Even Nadal is of the view that the reign of the Big Three cannot last much longer. In an interview after winning the US Open last month 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.
So as the season draws to a close it is clear that the Big Three will continue to hold on to the first three places in the ATP rankings and while the Grand Slams are over there was a significant happening in the Shangai Masters a couple of weeks ago that did not go unnoticed. The defeat of Federer at the hands of Zverev and Tsitipas’ victory over Djokovic – both in the quarterfinals – meant that the GenNext had taken a further step towards overhauling the Big Three in the rankings next year. Whether they will end their Grand Slam domination is a moot point but scoring another point in favour of the GenNext was the fact that Medvedev won the title defeating Zverev in the final after getting the better of Tsitsipas in the penultimate round. Interestingly enough Federer restored the balance in favour of the older generation with a straight sets victory over Tsitsipas in the semifinals of the Swiss indoors on his way to a tenth title triumph at the tournament.
The one major tournament left in the season is the ATP Tour finals to be held in London next month and that should be able to give tennis followers a clearer idea of how the season could unfold in 2020. For the record Zverev won the ATP Tour finals last year and continued to make reasonably good progress in 2019 being currently ranked No 6.
After the Big Three the next four ranked players in order are Medvedev, Thiem, Zverev and Tsitsipas. And while on points secured The Big Three are away ahead – especially Djokovic and Nadal – there is not much to separate the four leaders of the GenNext of players. That in itself is going to be a delicious sub-plot of the 2020 season as they endeavor to leapfrog over one another in their bid to break into the top three.
But of course the main plot will centre round the battle between the two generations. Thiem is a clay court specialist – he has finished runner-up to Nadal at the French Open both this year and 2018 - but the other three have excelled on other surfaces too. The one thing against them is their erratic performance in Grand Slams. Among the trio only Medvedev has made it to the title round at a Grand Slam event and that was this year when he lost in the final to Nadal at the US Open in five sets. Zverev has not made it beyond the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam (French Open in 2018 and again this year) while the best for Tsitsipas is a semifinal spot at the Australian Open this year. However their overall record could stand them in good stead as far as the rankings are concerned. All in all interesting happenings around the ATP Circuit are on the cards in 2020