As many athletes reached the pinnacle of their sport throughout the Tokyo Olympic Games, for Gold medalist Alexander Zverev, his Olympic triumph could prove a defining moment of his tennis career.
While there is no diminishing the value an Olympic medal holds, the 24-year-old will be hoping to follow the career trajectory of Andy Murray, who claimed Olympic Gold in 2012 which led to breaking through for his first grand slam success after contending for so long.
Murray wasted no time drawing on the confidence of his Olympic feats, winning the very next major, the 2012 US Open. For Zverev, who is the first German to claim a singles Gold medal since Steffi Graf in 1988, he will be hoping to emulate the Scots feats later this month at Flushing Meadows.
Zverev has made two grand slam semi-finals and the final of last year's US Open, going down to Dominic Thiem in a thrilling fifth set tie-break. But more notably, Zverev has reached the round of 16 in nine of his past 10 grand slams, underlining his consistent pursuit for the game's ultimate prize.
The world number 3 defeated some big names during his Olympic campaign, none more so than the red-hot Novak Djokovic in the semi-final.
The magnitude of an Olympic medal is not lost on Zverev, describing the incredible feeling that representing your country in "the biggest sporting event in the world" gave him while his emotion was on-show throughout the tournament, highlighting how much the sport's place in the Olympics holds for the players.
Zverev is among a host of "next generation" players that have promised to breakthrough for sometime now, and while the next wave is continuing to push, there is no denying the unbelievable stranglehold the big three of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokokic have had over the men's game. They have won 22 of the last 26 slams since 2015, with Stan Wawrinka (twice), Andy Murray and Dom Thiem the only intruders to the trio's dominance.
Zverev isn't alone in his pursuit to grab his own slice of history, the likes of Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas staking their claims while Hurbert Hurkacz and Felix Auger-Aliassime are quickly coming into the grand slam picture.
The reign of the big three ending is inevitable, with Federer celebrating his 40th birthday this weekend, Nadal is 35 and Djokovic, 34. However, it wouldn't be the first time these men have been written off based off their birth certificate. Until one of the next gen can dethrone these legends of the sport, the stranglehold remains.
The US Open will begin on August 30.
Listen to The First Serve, back Monday 9th August after the Olympics at 7pm AEST 1116AM SEN Melbourne & 1629AM SEN SA / 8pm AEST on 1170AM Sydney or listen live and catch up on the SEN App.
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