By Peter Timling |
For 15 years the favorite of winning the next Grand Slam has been either Federer, Nadal or Djokovic. The dominance of the Big Three in men’s tennis is unique compared to other sports. The combined achievement is so impressive that it is hard to phrase in words or numbers. But now there are vague signs that this dominance is about to change and 2020 may be the year when the Dynasty finally starts to crack.
Nothing lasts forever, not even Federer who is now 38 and cannot be expected to go on for much more than a year. He has repeatedly said that he wants to keep playing for as long as his body allows him to compete on the highest level, but everyone knows that it may take just a small injury to end the greatest career of all time. Is 2020 the year when we have to say goodbye to the Grandmaster of tennis?
The King of Clay has had a surprisingly strong year, winning two Slams and two Masters titles. Nadal is now just one Slam behind Federer and must be considered the favourite to win the 13th title at Roland Garros next year. But his physical playing style and the frequent injuries is a strenuous companion. Can he stay fit for another season?
Djokovic has held a firm grip of the top stop of the ranking for a year and is now approaching Pete Sampras in the marathon run for total weeks at No 1. But Djokovic has previously shown signs of mental instability, most notably in 2017, but also in the matches following after the Wimbledon title. Can he keep the focus and stay fit during 2020?
The 15 year crusade of the Big Three has created a lost generation of tennis, often symbolised by players around their 30s such as Dimitrov, Nishikori and Goffin. But after the Lost Generation comes the Next Generation and they represent a new type of players: tall, athletic, aggressive, hungry and they haven’t been used as punching bags.
Danii Medvedev was an inch away from beating Nadal in the US Open final 2019. He is perhaps the brightest shining star of the next generation and is currently ranked 4th. Other rising stars are Stefanos Tsitsipas and Karen Khachanov whose breakthroughs came in 2018. Alexander Zverev had his breakthrough in 2017 and have since then claimed a high ranking position outside the three giants. Another expected challenger is the very talented and athletic 19 year old Felix Auger-Aliassime who has already upset some high-ranked players. Dominic Thiem has been very successful on clay for many years. He has lost two consecutive GS finals against Nadal at Roland Garros but many believe that 2020 is the year when this will change.
One thing is for certain, the first player of the Next Generation who wins a Grand Slam will shake the foundations of men’s tennis and change the game forever. This event will open up the field for new players but it will also mark the beginning of the end of a long Era.
Peter Timling is an independent sports writer with a specific interest in tennis and golf. He lives in Sweden and holds an MSc from the University of Bath.