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3 men who could make their Grand Slam breakthrough in 2020

ANALYST
Top 5 / Top 10
Published Jan 07, 2020
Jan 07, 2020 IST

Dominic Thiem
Dominic Thiem

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are the three all-time Grand Slam title leaders, with respective tallies of 20, 19 and 18. Affectionately called the Big 3 for their stellar achievements in the sport, particularly in Grand Slam tournaments, the trio have scooped up all Grand Slam titles on offer since the 2016 US Open.

The Big 3's latest stranglehold (12 Slams) is the longest on the Major scene since Federer (11), Nadal (6) and Djokovic (1) swept 18 consecutive titles from the 2005 French Open till 2009 Wimbledon. Despite being on the wrong side of 30 and new challengers emerging on the scene, the trio have shown no signs of slowing down.

You may also like: 2019 ended 20-19 for Federer and Nadal atop the Grand Slam leaderboard. Would 2020 end 20-20?

It is a momentous challenge for any player to beat the Big 3 at a Major, sometimes even to take a set or two off them in the latter stages. Federer was pushed by Marin Cilic to five sets in the 2018 Australian Open, while Kevin Anderson (2018 Wimbledon) and Grigor Dimitrov (2019 US Open) each fought back from a two sets to one deficit to conquer the mighty Swiss.

Djokovic fell two wins short of a stunning second non-calendar Slam when he went down to Dominic Thiem in the 2019 French Open semis. Thiem took a set off Nadal in the 2019 French Open final, Medvedev recovered from a two sets and a break deficit and then a double break deficit in the 5th set to almost get back on serve, but on both occasions the Spaniard dug deep to deny his inspired opponents. 

Federer and Djokovic would be favourites at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon. Nadal at the French Open still remains one of the most compelling contenders, 15 years after making his Slam breakthrough at the claycourt Major in the summer of 2005. It is perhaps at the US Open where the newest Grand Slam champion since Cilic (2014 US Open) is most likely to emerge.

Federer hasn't won a title in New York since 2008 and hasn't made the final since 2015. Meanwhile, five of Djokovic's nine Major final defeats have come at the US Open. And despite winning two of the last three US Opens, hardcourt is not the favorite surface of Nadal.

On that note, let us meet the three most likely players to make their Grand Slam breakthrough in 2020.

#3 Daniil Medvedev

Daniil Medvedev
Daniil Medvedev

The 93rd different Grand Slam finalist in the Open Era came close to becoming the 55th different Grand Slam winner in the Open Era. But for large swathes in his maiden Grand Slam final at the 2019 US Open against 18-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal, it had looked like a lost cause for Daniil Medvedev; at one stage the Russian found himself down by two sets and a break.

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Three holds away, the finish line was within touching distance for the Spaniard when Medvedev decided to belatedly join the party and make it one of the most memorable US Open finals in recent times. The young Russian grabbed the third and the fourth sets and rode his momentum to arrive at break points on the Nadal serve early in the fifth.

However, he squandered the opportunities as Nadal held and then broke twice to take a seemingly insurmountable 5-1 lead.

But Medvedev wasn't done just yet. The Russian caught a second wind by holding serve and then recouping one of the breaks, before squandering two break points as Nadal dug deep to serve out victory at the second time of asking.

You may also like: Medvedev comes of age at the 2019 US Open

That result came on the back of a glorious North American summer where Medvedev built up a head of steam. Making his Grand Slam main draw debut at the 2017 Australian Open, Medvedev reached his first final in only his 12th attempt, which is faster than four of the six active Grand Slam winners on tour (Federer-17, Djokovic-13, Cilic-28 and Juan Martin Del Potro-14). Nadal got there on his sixth attempt, and Murray also on his 12th.

If the Russian doesn't suffer from a sophomore slump, he would be one of the front-runners to become the newest Grand Slam champion - and his best chance would come on hardcourt.

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