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Experts on Big 3's prospects: Federer is no longer feared by youngsters, Nadal is the RG favorite until he loses, Djokovic will win 1-2 Slams for the next 2-3 years

(From L to R) Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer
(From L to R) Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer
Namit Kumar
ANALYST
Modified 23 Apr 2021
News

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have dominated the tour for over 15 years now. With 58 Grand Slam titles among them, the 'Big 3' are at the center of most debates and discussions in men's tennis.

Recently, renowned analysts Paul Annacone, Patrick McEnroe and Luke Jensen weighed in on the prospects of the trio ahead of the clay and grass seasons.

Annocone, who is a former coach of Roger Federer, spoke of the Swiss' chances to win Wimbledon once again this year. The American claimed that Federer doesn't need too much match practice to do well at the All England Club.

"If he can get six, seven matches in [before Wimbledon], that’s great," Annacone said. "Roger Federer doesn’t need to win anything to go into Wimbledon with a shot. Losses don’t dent his psyche. If he gets in some matches and is healthy for grass, he will be ecstatic."
Roger Federer
Roger Federer

But Luke Jensen, a former doubles champion at the French Open, is not as confident about the 39-year-old's chances in London this summer.

"Roger Federer is running out of runway," Jensen said. "It would be great for the game if he got another one, but there are so many good young guys now. And they no longer fear him. They're like, 'Bring it on'."

Eight of Roger Federer's 20 Grand Slam titles have come on the grass courts of Wimbledon. Despite nearing the age of 40, the Swiss player was the finalist at the last edition of the tournament in 2019. In fact, Federer was inches away from the trophy; he squandered two match points before losing to Novak Djokovic in the final.

Patrick McEnroe believes there aren't many players on tour at the moment who have "the tools" to defeat the Swiss maestro on the surface.

"On hard courts, there’s a good number of guys who can upset him (Roger Federer)," McEnroe said. "While on grass, especially at Wimbledon, there’s not that many guys who have the tools to beat him."

The longer it goes on clay the better Rafael Nadal gets: Patrick McEnroe

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have 20 Major titles
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have 20 Major titles

Rafael Nadal's numbers at Roland Garros are unlike any other in tennis, or perhaps in sport overall. The Spaniard is a 13-time champion on the dirt in Paris, and has won each of the last four editions.

Rafael Nadal also has a whopping 100-2 win-loss record at the French Open, with his only defeats coming at the hands of Robin Soderling in 2009 and Novak Djokovic in 2015.

Aware of these numbers, Patrick McEnroe talked in glowing terms about Rafael Nadal's dominance on clay. The American particularly highlighted Nadal's ability to wear down his opponents, which is in contrast to the way Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic go about their business.

"The longer it goes on clay the better he gets and the more devastating he is," McEnroe said. "The other two [Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic] will beat the crap out of you, but not in anything like the same way Rafael Nadal physically punishes you on clay."

Luke Jensen went one step further, and claimed that betting against Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros would be like betting against Tom Brady in the Super Bowl.

"Remember how many people said don't bet on Tom Brady in the Super Bowl against the [Kansas City] Chiefs? Same with Rafael Nadal. I’d have to see him lose at Roland Garros before I put anyone as a favorite above him," Jensen asserted.

Novak Djokovic thrives on irreverence and being embattled: Paul Annacone

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic has now been the World No. 1 for a record 316 weeks and counting. Despite an injury-riddled run at the Australian Open this year, the 33-year-old peresevered to add an 18th Grand Slam title to his tally, which was also his ninth at Melbourne Park.

Novak Djokovic has displayed a steely determination and focus on his journey to breaking as many records as possible. And Annacone believes it is the "irreverence" that the World No. 1 receives from fans that continues to drive him.

"I used to think that in a perfect world, you want simplicity," Annacone said. "But it really depends on your personality. Novak Djokovic does thrive on irreverence, and a little bit on being embattled. The complication is that he also wants to be loved, like Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer."

Jensen and McEnroe both agree that Novak Djokovic will end his career with more Majors than Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

"He (Novak Djokovic) just has too much youth," Jensen said. "He’s good on all surfaces - and at some point, doesn’t Rafael Nadal have to come down a little on clay?"

McEnroe, meanwhile, claimed that Djokovic will continue to dominate the Slams for at least a couple of years more.

"If Novak Djokovic can stay healthy and hungry—which it appears likely—he should be able to win one to two majors a year for the next two or three years," McEnroe asserted.
Published 23 Apr 2021
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