The 2019 ATP season is approaching its final swing & the ‘Big Three’ have dominated this year like everyone expected them to despite there being hopes of a changing of guard. Between them, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Novak Djokovic won all four Grand Slams of the year.
Nadal won the French Open & the US Open and was the runner-up at the Australian Open where he lost Djokovic who also went on to win the Wimbledon, where Federer was the other finalist.
In fact, since Stan Wawrinka’s 2016 US Open title, the ‘Big Three’ have won every single Grand Slam, with Nadal winning five, Djokovic clinching four and Federer pocketing three. Will the guard change soon?
Despite the sheer dominance by the ‘Big Three’ this year, there have been enough signs to show that a change of guard in men’s tennis is not that far away. Never say never, but age finally seems to be catching up with Federer who has struggled in the second half of many Grand Slams & Masters 1000 this year, while the injury records of Djokovic & Nadal coupled with their gruelling style of play may not allow them to play much longer.
Who are the others who could take over? Here’s a list of four players to watch out for for the rest of the season & going into the new season and are likely to be a force to reckon with in the years to come.
Hailed as the next big thing of men’s tennis, Medvedev has had an amazing 2019.
The 23-year-old Russian is known to have one of the best double-handed backhands on the tour, a versatile range of groundstrokes and a tricky player at the net. His game is ideally suited to grass & hard courts and with a little improvement in his service, he can take his game to the next level.
He has risen to the fourth spot in the ATP Rankings thanks to a dream hard court season, where he reached the finals of his last four consecutive events. Apart from his final appearance in US Open where he almost pulled off a miraculous comeback from being two sets down to eventually lose in five sets to Nadal, he won Cincinnati Masters as well as was the losing finalist at the Montreal Masters & the Washington Open.
Earlier this year, Medvedev also won in Sofia this year and was a finalist in Barcelona and Brisbane.
He will be one of the players to watch out for at the World Tour Finals later this year and with Djokovic’s fitness under question, Medvedev could go into the 2020 Australian Open as one of the favourites.
If Medvedev is the frontrunner to be the next hardcourt Grand Slam winner outside of the ‘Big Three’, Thiem is likely to be the next French Open champion whose name is not Rafael Nadal.
Thiem is back to back finalist at Roland Garros, losing both the times to Nadal. And the 26-year old Austrian who is currently the world number five player has a very powerful range of groundstrokes, combined with the extra topspin that he generates from his shots.
He is also a very calm player known to handle big points & situations well. Interestingly, Thiem even joined the Austrian military service between November 2014 to April 2015 and did not miss a single tournament in the duration.
Thiem has had an impressive 2019 where he has won three titles at Kitzbuhel, Barcelona and Indian Wells and also reached the semi-finals at the Madrid Masters & Argentina Open.
His record at the Grand Slams has room for improvement as apart from French Open he has suffered first and second-round exits in all the other three Grand Slams.
Many experts rate Zverev as the most talented amongst the current generation of players under the age of 23 and in the top 50 rankings in the world.
He won nine titles in 2017 & 2018 combined which includes Masters 1000 titles at Montreal & Madrid. After his win at the season-ending World Tour Finals last year where he beat Djokovic in the final, the expectations from Zverev were high for this year.
Even though the 22-year-old German hasn’t had the kind of year everyone was expecting him to have, his campaign has been very solid with a title in Geneva and reaching finals at Acapulco & the Hopman Cup earlier in the year. He has one of the best backhand game on the tour but one thing he needs to improve on is his temperament & handling the pressure.
He has fallen at the quarter-final & semi-final stage on six occasions this season and he will be hoping to win few more titles and reach later stages of more tournaments then he did this year.
The great hope of Greek tennis, Stefano Tsitsipas shot to spotlight after winning the Next Gen World Tour Finals in 2018, he started 2019 in style as well as he reached the semi-finals at the Australian Open where he beat Federer in the round of 16.
Titles in Marsellile & Estoril Open along with reaching finals at the Dubai Open & Madrid Masters proved that the Australian Open was not a fluke and he is here to stay.
Still only 21, the world number eight is known for his ability to play long rallies and extremely strong fitness and he showed that at the Australian Open where every match except the semi-final, went on for four sets.
Tsitsipas’ fitness & mental fortitude were again on display at the French Open where he won back to back four-set matches before losing a marathon five-setter to Swiss, Stan Wawrinka in the Round of 16.
Still young and with no obvious weakness in the game, Tsitsipas will hope to add to his four career titles in the remaining of this season and 2020.
It would be naive to count out the ‘Big Three’ despite age, fitness, and competition, current tennis viewing generation is extremely lucky to have Federer, Nadal & Djokovic taking the sport to another level.
But there is another extremely talented & hungry pack of players not too far behind and 2020 surely promises to be a fascinating year to see if the change of guard at the top of men’s tennis does take place or not!