THE NEXT GENERATION NEED TO GET MOVING


Roger Federer won his first Grand Slam at 21-years-old, Rafael Nadal won his at 19 and Novak Djokovic claimed his at 20, and they are considered the three greatest players to have ever picked up a tennis racquet.

The legacy they will leave on the sport will be monumental, and it will last long after our generation.

But what is disappointing is that all three of them are on the wrong side of 30, well in Federer’s case 40, but the fact of the matter is that the next crop of players can just simply not beat them.

Mentally, the trio have dismantled the likes of Berdych, Ferrer, Nalbandian, Gasquet, Davydenko, Tsonga, Simon and Raonic to the point where none of them ever won a major.

In a different era, all of them could have saluted.

Even for the quality of Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, they have only been able to conquer three slams apiece.

The tennis world thought that might end with the emergence of Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev, the tennis world thought that the oligopoly might be trumped, but only one has broken through.

Medvedev’s US Open triumph in 2021 gave the rest of the tour hope that maybe there was a light at the end of the tunnel of Big 3 dominance, but two and a half months into 2022, it feels as though that won’t be changing for a while.

Rafael Nadal is now 17 wins without blemish and has hoisted three trophies all on a hard court, including the elusive second Australian Open title that he has craved for 13 years since his 2009 triumph.

That win allowed him to surpass Federer and Djokovic for that elusive 21st major, but let’s backtrack a little to the start of the event.

Rafa had played one tournament in five months, with an ongoing foot injury causing a plethora of problems and even doubt as to whether he might continue playing tennis.

However, at 35 and with a bad foot, he was still able to overcome challenges from players over ten years his junior.

Shapovalov pushed him to five in the quarters, but couldn’t beat him.

Berrettini took him to four but was overawed.

Medvedev led 6-2 7-6 3-2 and had 0-40 on Rafa’s serve, but lost.

If these stars can’t get the job done, then who can?

Nadal has continued the onslaught to Acapulco, where he again dismantled Medvedev who squandered opportunities to get back into the second set, and then on to Indian Wells where he produced an inspirational comeback in the desert against Seb Korda, reminiscent of his 2009 match against Nalbandian and 2016 clash with Zverev on the same court.

The Spaniard is 15 years older than Korda, but still got the job done despite being 2-5 down in the third set.

Mistakes crept up on Korda, who looked on as his idol and the man he named his cat after clawed his way back into the contest to win an enthralling battle.

Now there is no way Rafa has played badly, he has in fact been sublime, and it is wonderful to see because the 21-time Grand Slam champion at full flight is enough to spark the endorphins of even the most boring person on the planet.

In 2021 it was almost the Novak Slam before he was halted by Medvedev in New York, and don’t forget that Roger Federer barely played at all in a year and a half and still managed to reach the fourth round at the French Open and the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, simply astonishing.

But surely we can be expecting more from the chasing pack.

At Indian Wells, for example, Daniil Medvedev has surrendered his number one ranking back to Djokovic following his loss to Gael Monfils, who notched up his second career win over a top-ranked player.

The Frenchman is 6 wins and 41 losses against the Big Three, but against Zverev, Medvedev and Tsitsipas he is 6 wins and 4 losses, albeit a few of their encounters were before the latter trio peaked.

But still, it’s the same amount of wins against the new generation as the three giants.

Moving on to Zverev and Tsitsipas, both have squandered opportunities in the desert, with the German falling to American Tommy Paul from an advantageous position, and the Greek squandering a solid position of his own against young gun Jenson Brooksby.

To be quite frank, Zverev shouldn’t even be playing at all after his rage-fuelled racquet attack on the umpire’s chair in Acapulco, a disgusting display that brings the sport we love into disrepute.

Tsitsipas has had his own fair share of controversies, whether it be coaching or toilet breaks. He’s not been the public’s best friend in recent times.

Medvedev himself has also been portrayed as a bit of a menace, but his character is genuine and authentic.

Yes, he has been angry and over the top with umpires, but he has apologised and moved on, and the way he spoke after his Australian Open final defeat was raw and heart wrenching, from this point of view, it’s so hard not to love him.

They are the big three players at the moment, well the ones that are looking to take the mantle for themselves.

This same trio are also the only men since 2004 to have squandered a two set lead in a Grand Slam final, which is a stat they would not want to hold.

With the likes of Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner streaming through the ranks, and the imminent return of Dominic Thiem, the competitiveness of the ATP Tour will be expected to heat up intensely, but with the Big Three still in draws, it seems as though they will get the job done for the foreseeable future unless a shift in mentality happens.