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The tightening race amongst the Big 3 for Grand Slams 

CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
Modified 10 Feb 2020, 10:02 IST

The Big 3 have won all of the last 13 grand slams among them.
The Big 3 have won all of the last 13 grand slams among them.






It's called the Golden Era for a reason. In the last two decades, the world of men's tennis saw something that's rarely seen in sports. 3 of the greatest players to ever pick up a tennis racquet, reached their peak in the same era. The three Europeans have ruled the sport on all surfaces since a decade and a half. A good part of the 2000s and the entirety of 2010s have been all about the Big 3 in men's tennis. Though there has been instances where others stepped up and bid for a place in this elite group, nobody has been able to withstand the test of time like these three. Naturally, comparisons began among the three of them as to who is the Greatest of All Time (GOAT). A debate that began more than a decade ago, and one that'll probably go on forever.

The three-horse race

How can you possibly pick one among the three? The silky smooth Roger Federer who, with his effortless shotmaking, has become the epitome of style and grace. The raging bull Rafael Nadal, an unrelenting fighter who plays every point like his life depends on it. Or Novak Djokovic, a complete player who can overcome any challenge posed to him because of his mental toughness.

Having played professional tennis for more than 15 years and with a fanbase that's spread across the globe, every single aspect of their game has been dissected and every available stat compared. If Federer rules Wimbledon, Nadal makes up for it with his dominance on clay, and Djokovic strengthens his case with his unmatchable superiority on hard-courts.

While Federer probably has won the hearts of most fans, the Spaniard leads in the head-to-head category. While the Serb now has a better record against either of the two, he has the least Grand Slams titles (for now). While the Serb has been more dominant in Grand Slams in his 'peak', the Swiss maestro has been able to sustain his peak for longer. Every achievement is followed by a 'but' and fans find a loophole to overthrow every statistic that favours one among the three.

But among all these records, only one has been unofficially accepted by most fans around the world as the 'one that settles it all' : The most Grand Slams titles won. Federer fans like it because he owns this record, Nadal supporters like it because they are confident the lefty will break it soon, and Djokovic's fans love it because they are sure he will be on top when all is said and done.


Predictions for 2020

Let's have a look at where we stand in the Grand Slams tally at the moment :

  • Roger Federer - 20
  • Rafael Nadal - 19
  • Novak Djokovic - 17

The race has been closer than ever and (at the cost of sounding cliched) is heading towards a climactic end. Novak Djokovic just won his record 8th Australian Open title and is now the man to beat. Going by the level of tennis he displayed Down Under, he will dominate the year yet again and win more slams. Considering recent proceedings, here are the most likely scenarios that'll happen this year :


#1 Rafael Nadal wins French Open, Djokovic takes Wimbledon and US Open

Winning the French Open will give Nadal an edge in the race towards most slams
Winning the French Open will give Nadal an edge in the race towards most slams
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Even though Nadal lost to Dominic Thiem in the semi-finals in Melbourne, it'll be blasphemous to write-off Nadal at the French Open. Once the king of clay takes his 13th title in Roland Garros, Djokovic will be the favorite to win the other two slams.

Grand Slam tally by end of 2020

  • Roger Federer - 20
  • Rafael Nadal - 20
  • Novak Djokovic - 19

#2 Rafael Nadal wins French Open, Federer Wimbledon, Djokovic US Open

Winning Wimbledon in 2020 might be Federer
Winning Wimbledon in 2020 might be Federer's last chance at winning a slam






This is the one scenario where the sentimental-favourite Federer wins his favourite slam. At the age of 38, and going by his recent struggles against Djokovic, though this feels improbable, Federer gets the benefit of doubt because of his class. This is the one scenario where all three win a slam apiece and the Nadal and Djokovic chase continues.

Grand Slam tally by end of 2020

  • Roger Federer - 21
  • Rafael Nadal - 20
  • Novak Djokovic - 18

#3 Djokovic wins all three slams

Winning the French Open will make Novak the favourite to win all slams this year.
Winning the French Open will make Novak the favourite to win all slams this year.






As scary as it may sound for Federer and Nadal fans, Djokovic has more than an outside chance of sweeping it this year. His biggest challenge will be bettering Nadal at Roland Garros. If the Serbian can manage that, he'll be the overwhelming favourite to achieve the calendar slam.

Grand Slam tally by end of 2020

  • Roger Federer - 20
  • Rafael Nadal - 19
  • Novak Djokovic - 20

As seen from the above scenarios, irrespective of which one plays out, the Grand Slam tally at the end of the year will be fascinatingly close. What makes it more interesting is the fact that the Next-Gen and other players are on the verge of breaking the barrier and taking down the Big 3. Dominic Thiem's defeated Nadal and almost beat the Djokovic in the finals. This inspired run Down Under showed the world that the Big 3 can't dominate forever and someone outside might start winning slams.

Even Federer fans agree that 2020 might be his last chance to win a slam. Given his history with injuries, Nadal's chances to win at 33 outside of clay will be slim. Djokovic will still have his chances, but he will be a year older and Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Daniil Medvedev - more experienced.

Therefore, 2020 might truly be one last chance for the Big 3 to make a take a giant leap forward and end up on the right side of the GOAT debate.

Or, the three legends will continue defying the odds and dominate tennis for a few more years to come.


Also read: How the Federer-Nadal, Federer-Djokovic and Nadal-Djokovic rivalries unfolded in 2019


Published 10 Feb 2020, 10:02 IST
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