End of Big Three era? A look at state of men’s game after Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal’s ATP Finals exit

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Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic

For the second successive year, the final of the Nitto ATP Finals will not feature Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal.

With Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev beating Djokovic and Nadal, respectively, at London’s O2 Arena, we ask is this the end of an era?

London anomaly

Stefanos Tsitsipas ATP Finals

It was hard not to read something bigger into Djokovic and Nadal both being sent packing by younger rivals on the same day.

But recent history would indicate this tournament does not provide a reliable indicator of what is to come the following season.

Since Andy Murray lifted the trophy in 2016, the champions have been Grigor Dimitrov, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas, who can boast precisely one Grand Slam final appearance between them.

Indoor hard courts are by some distance Nadal’s weakest surface while Djokovic has not played his best in London since a run of four titles in a row from 2012-15.

Grand Slam dominance

 

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The Grand Slams are the ultimate markers of success in tennis and we remain in a run of unprecedented dominance by Federer, Djokovic and Nadal.

They have won an absurd 56 of the last 67 Slam titles between them, including 14 of the last 15.

Dominic Thiem finally broke the stranglehold by winning this year’s US Open but Nadal and Federer did not take part and Djokovic was the clear favourite until his unfortunate disqualification.

Nadal has just won a 13th French Open title without dropping a set and he and Djokovic especially will still be the strong favourites going into 2021.

Changing of the guard

Dominic Thiem shows his emotion after beating Novak Djokovic on Saturday
Dominic Thiem shows his emotion after beating Novak Djokovic on Saturday (John Walton/PA)

Utter those words around men’s tennis and you will draw a wry smile. The changing of the guard has been proclaimed numerous times over the past five years but is yet to arrive.

It is coming, of that there is no question. Federer will be 40 next year and has missed almost the whole season following two knee operations.

Nadal is 34 and Djokovic 33 and both can be shakier in the big moments than they once were.

The likes of Thiem, Medvedev, Zverev and Tsitsipas have had more success against the trio than the generations before them, and an even younger generation is making waves, too.

But, with Federer and Nadal tied on 20 Slam titles and Djokovic three behind, they are playing for history and hugely motivated to achieve more. Do not write them off just yet.

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