As the ‘Big Three’ on the ATP Tour (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic) have dominated the men’s tour for the last decade and a half, the big question has always been who can end this dominance and when.
The contenders have changed over time, but the dominance in the Majors has remained largely untouched. With 56 Grand Slam titles between them, the Big Three have truly played in what is often referred to as the ‘Golden Era of Tennis’.
The last 13 majors, dating back to the beginning of 2017, have seen each of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic return from what looked like career-ending injuries/ breaks from the game and come back even stronger than before.
With the last non Big Three Grand Slam winner being Stanislas Wawrinka at the US Open in 2016, and the ‘Next Gen’ of tennis looking stronger than ever in 2019, one wondered if the start of the new decade in 2020 would see the changing of the guards at the majors.
Despite spirited efforts from Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev at the Australian Open, Novak Djokovic prevailed yet once again, in turn winning his eighth title at Melbourne Park.
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What followed thereafter in tennis and in every walk of life was truly unprecedented in terms of the Covid-19 pandemic bringing most of life to a screeching halt.
With Wimbledon cancelled, and the French Open postponed to the autumn time-frame, all signs seem to point to a closed doors US Open as the likely next Grand Slam Tournament and the first of its kind in the Covid-19 period.
While a lot of figuring out still remains with regards to the 2020 US Open and related specifics, what is certain is that it will be unique in many ways, and one such is the potential presence (or lack thereof) of the Big Three.
With Roger Federer out for the 2020 tennis season with two knee injuries, there remains a cloud of doubt around the participation of both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
While Novak Djokovic has expressed disappointment at the speculated strict protocols in place by the USTA and the State of New York, (including limited members allowed on players’ teams), Rafael Nadal has been rumored to suggest focussing on the ensuing clay season right after the US Open, as well at cutting back on transatlantic travel.
Which Non-Big Three Player Can Win the US Open 2020?
This then brings us to the possibility again of a non Big-Three Grand Slam winner and while the absence of the Big Three may not be the optimal way for the incoming generation to reach the pinnacle, it again brings up speculation on who could be the first major winner among the next crop of talent.
We look at three players that maybe the most likely to breakthrough especially in the absence of Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic.
Tipped to be the obvious successor to Nadal on the red dirt (clay), Thiem has already proven himself on clay being a finalist in 2018 & 2019 at the French Open.
However, he added another string to his bow by excelling on the hard courts as well, winning the Indian Wells Masters 1000 (2019), ATP Beijing 500 (2019), and being a finalist at the 2020 Australian Open and the 2019 ATP Year-End Tournament at the O2 arena in London.
With a strong baseline play, and powerful groundstrokes, Thiem has also been part of one of the most memorable US Open matches in recent times, against Nadal at the 2018 US Open, which Nadal won in an epic thriller.
The Austrian will be one of the top contenders for the US Open title this season, especially given how well-prepared he would be following a string of matches in the exhibition circuit before the start of the main season. (at the time of writing he has played 28 matches during the off-season already!)
The nonchalant ‘Next Gen’ Russian had a phenomenal second half of the year in 2019 making six finals in a row, winning the ATP Masters 1000s in Cincinnati & Shanghai respectively, as well as being runner-up in a tight five-set US Open final to Nadal.
Medvedev was one of the most consistent players on the tour in 2019, even defeating Novak Djokovic twice in consecutive meetings.
Although 2019 ended with a jaded Medvedev putting up a disappointing performance at the O2 arena in London, and 2020 did not get off to the standards that Medvedev reached in 2019, the young Russian comes into the US Open well-rested.
As a result he remains a top contender to take over the mantle from the ‘Big Three’ in the near future and will look to repeat his 2019 performance at Flushing Meadows and perhaps go a step further.
The Greek talent has had some phenomenal results in the last year and a half including defeating all the ‘Big Three’ in 2019 itself, at Grand Slams and Masters 1000 tournaments.
Despite his lack of consistency at certain points in the year, notably Wimbledon & US Open 2019, Tsitsipas came back strongly during the latter part of 2019, with impressive showing on the indoor hard courts. That culminated in the biggest win of his short career thus far, winning the year end ATP Final in London.
2020 got off to a mixed start for the young Greek, with a sub-par showing at the Australian Open, but pulling it back in February with strong performances on the indoor courts in France as well as on the hard courts of Dubai, which have turned out to be favorable for him in the last couple years.
Similar to his ‘Next Gen’ peers mentioned above, Tsitsipas remains a potential contender at the US Open.
Our Non-Big Three Pick for the US Open This Year