2019 Nitto ATP Finals saw two of the best young players go toe to toe in an exciting summit clash, where eventually the last year’s next gen star Stefanos Tsitsipas edged out the most improved hard court player of the season – Dominic Thiem.
This was the first instance in a long long time when none from the big four featured in the summit clash. This has led to many tennis pundits heralding the arrival of the next gen, finally! However, it would be rather premature to do so, at this point. Until and unless the next gen or the ‘lost’ generation (players like Grgor Dimitrov, Kei Nishikori, etc.) perform at the biggest stage, i.e. the Grand Slams, they have not really arrived.
Yes, in the last couple of years players like Alexander Zverev, Daniil Medvedev and Thiem have won some Masters 1000 tournaments. Before Tsitsipas this year, the last two editions of Nitto ATP finals have been won by players outside the big three as well. Dimitrov won in 2017 and Zverev in 2018. But neither player has made a mark in the Grand Slams so far.
It is one thing to win the best of three-set Masters tournaments or ATP Finals, and quite another to win the best of five-set Slams. Without taking away anything from players outside the big three, it is safe to say that none of them have as yet threatened the big three in the Majors. Players like Thiem and Medvedev may have given a scare to them in the Slams in the summit clash, but they have not yet succeeded in getting past them.
The four grand slams in 2019 were shared by two members of the big three – Nadal and Djokovic. The player who threatened to snatch one of these from these two was the other member of the big three – Roger Federer at the Wimbledon championships.
A rejuvenated Rafael Nadal, a consistent Novak Djokovic, and the Houdini from Switzerland are still the three players most likely to share the spoils when it comes to Grand Slams in 2020.