Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have developed a stranglehold over men's tennis in recent times. The 'Big 3' have dominated the sport for over 15 years, amassing a total of 58 Grand Slam titles between them and breaking almost every record in history.
In that context, former World No. 8 Janko Tipsarevic recently explained why the generation preceding this legendary trio didn't have the same kind of longevity and success. According to Tipsarevic, while the likes of Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Goran Ivanisevic were powerful players in their own right, their flexibility and movement weren't at the same level as the Big 3.
"Champions like Goran (Ivanisevic), Sampras and Agassi could already hit the ball very hard," Tipsarevic said. "They could serve as big as the guys who serve now. But what makes the difference with the generation that followed is the notion of movement and position on the court, which is also called biomechanics."
Tipsarevic asserted that the Big 3, alongside former World No. 1 Andy Murray, have the foot speed to cover the court from different types of positions. That in turn makes it very hard for their opponents to keep up with them.
"The way Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray cover the court, in all aspects, 3–4 meters behind the baseline and 2 yards inside the baseline, is just a completely different level to what it was before," Tipsarevic said. "(This) changes the spectacle offered by the champions and the level of requirement that must be reached in order to be able to worry them."
Will the 'Next Gen' be able to challenge Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal & Roger Federer at the Slams in 2021?
Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have grabbed 15 of the last 16 Major titles, with last year's US Open being the only exception. That tournament was won by Dominic Thiem, but an important caveat was that Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer didn't play the event, while Novak Djokovic was disqualified.
One of the Big 3 has also finished 16 of the last 17 seasons as World No. 1, barring 2016 (Andy Murray).
However, the 'Next Gen' of men's tennis has been knocking on the door for quite some time now. The likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev and Andrey Rublev have all got significant best-of-three results under their belt, while Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev now have multiple Grand Slam finals to boast of.
Thiem is one of the very few active players on tour to have defeated both Novak Djokovic (Roland Garros 2017 and 2019) and Rafael Nadal (Australian Open 2020) in best-of-five action. He even Djokovic to five tight sets in the Australian Open last year.
Medvedev, on the other hand, came back from a two-set deficit in the 2019 US Open final against Nadal before losing the fifth. He was also on a 20-match winning streak prior to the final against Djokovic in Melbourne this year.
Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, now well into their 30s, still go into each Grand Slam event as the favorites. But many expect the younger generation of players to step up in 2021 and finally grab the mantle from the three legends on the biggest stages.