With Novak Djokovic having just won his 7th Wimbledon title, tennis fans can only marvel at the dominance of the so-called “Big 3” - Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Despite stiff competition and the emergence of a host of promising new players in the last few years such as Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alex Zverev and Carlos Alcaraz, the Big 3 have exerted a quite extraordinary grip on professional tennis over the last 20 years, especially on the prestigious Grand Slam titles.
This assertion is reflected in the statistics:
- Since the beginning of 2003, the trio have won 63 of the past 78 (81%) Grand Slam titles, up until Wimbledon 2022 (and reached 70 Grand Slam finals overall during this period)
- This includes, collectively, 17 titles at the Australian Open, 17 titles at the French Open, 17 Wimbledon titles and 12 US Open titles.
- Nadal has the all-time total slam titles record at 22, Djokovic has 21 titles and Federer has 20 titles.
- They are all-time title leaders at 3 out of the 4 Grand Slam tournaments; Nadal has 14 French Open titles, Djokovic has 9 Australian Open titles, and Federer has 8 Wimbledon titles.
- They have had several consecutive Slam runs- 18 from the 2005 French Open to 2009 Wimbledon, 11 from the 2010 Australian Open to Wimbledon in 2012, and 14 from the 2017 Australian Open, to the 2020 French Open.
- Both Federer and Djokovic have been ranked No. 1 for more than 300 weeks each, while Nadal enjoyed No. 1 status for more than 200 weeks.
- For every year from 2004 to 2021 except for 2016 (17 of 18), a member of the Big Three has achieved ATP year-end No. 1.
- Collectively, they have occupied the top three positions of the year-end singles ATP rankings eight times, in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2018 and 2019.
More than mere stats
Judged purely on these statistics, no one could argue that the Big 3 are, individually and collectively, right up there with the greatest of all time. Their dominance of the sport has been quite extraordinary, but mere statistics don’t even paint the full picture of their influence on modern tennis. All three players have captured the imagination of the tennis public and raised interest in the sport after the retirement of popular top players such as Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg.
Different styles, equally great
Each of the Big 3 has a distinct playing style and personality, which has made their rivalry that much more appetising and enjoyable. Federer is the cool and calculated customer on court with an elegant and aesthetically pleasing playing style marked by an outstanding serve and an all-round game. Nadal (who plays left-handed) is the “street brawler:” who never backs down from a fight (in tennis terms) and wears his opponents down with his high-intensity and all-action game, defined by a wristy and powerful forehand. Djokovic is a supreme athlete with a killer backhand, minimal faults in his game and an intense and unrelenting commitment to training, high performance and winning.
Off the court, all three players come across as friendly, open, generous, and relatively relaxed. However, while Djokovic has gained immense respect from the tennis-loving public, he has never attained quite the same level of adoration as Federer and Nadal.
What does the future hold?
“All good things must come to an end” goes the old saying, and this golden era will most likely come to an end within the next few years. Federer is nearly 41 and has been out of the game for over a year with injury, so he is likely to retire soon. Nadal has been prolific of late, but continues to be hampered by injury, having just pulled out of his Wimbledon semifinal due to an abdominal injury, and is now 36 years old. Djokovic is the youngest of the three at 35 and may continue for a few years yet, but it remains to be seen whether he can maintain the incredibly high level he has achieved, moving forward.
No one knows what the future will bring, but we are unlikely to see such supremacy by a trio of players any time soon. They have broken many tennis records and have had a stranglehold on Grand Slams and the rankings. They have also achieved so much past the age of 30, whereas traditionally, tennis players would retire in their early 30s. It would be quite an achievement for future players to beat or even match their stellar records, especially considering they are still actively playing and may possibly add to their titles and aura, depending on fitness and motivation.
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