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What does 2020 have in store for tennis' Big-3 of Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic?

Bhargav
The triumvirate of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic.
The triumvirate of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic.

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic are three of the biggest names in men's tennis. Affectionately known as the Big-3 for their stellar achievements in the game, some of the trio's most prominent records include the three highest all-time tallies of Grand Slam and Masters 1000 titles and the three highest match win tallies in both tournament categories.

Each of the trio are the only active players and respectively the third (Federer), fourth (Nadal), and fifth (Djokovic) players overall to win the coveted career Grand Slam (the feat of winning all 4 Grand Slam titles during the course of one's careers).

Nadal (83.2%) and Djokovic (82.7%) possess the two best all-time match-win record of any player to have played over 200 matches. Federer's career win-loss record of 82.1% is fourth-best of all time, behind that of Nadal, Djokovic, and Bjorn Borg.

Except for Djokovic (4 finals at the French Open), each of the Big-3 trifecta has played a staggering 5 or more finals at each of the 4 Grand Slam tournaments on the calendar. On that note, let us find out what 2020 has in store for three of the biggest names to have played the sport.


#1: Grand Slams

Nadal lifted his 19th title at the 2019 US Open

Nadal looked on course for a routine Grand Slam final win at Flushing Meadows when he led first-time Slam finalist Daniil Medvedev by two sets and a break. But Medvedev responded with two consecutive sets to force a decider where he squandered multiple break points and then multiple break-back points at 4-5 down before going down in a pulsating title match.

In the process, Nadal lifted his 4th title at the US Open and 19th Grand Slam title to close to within one of Federer's all-time leading tally of 20 as the Big 3 made a clean sweep of Grand Slam titles in three straight seasons (2017-2019).

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As 2020 looms, the Big 3 would be mindful of the younger players beginning to knock on the door. Despite that, Djokovic and Federer would be the marginal favourites ahead of Nadal at the Australian Open. At the French, barring an injury or a disastrous loss of form, Nadal would be a huge favourite, if not an overwhelming one, for a record-extending 13th title at the tournament.

Federer's best chance of extending his Grand Slam title tally would be at Wimbledon where the Swiss is a record 8-time champion. The US Open, like in most years, would be one where a new Grand Slam champion is the most likely to emerge. Federer hasn't won a title at Flushing Meadows in more than a decade and hasn't made the final since 2015. Djokovic has suffered 5 of his 9 Grand Slam defeats at the US Open while Nadal, despite his 4 titles, has never won successive hard court titles in as many seasons (the sole exception being 2018-2019 Coupe Rogers).

#2: ATP Finals

Stefanos Tsitsipas is the reigning ATP Finals champion

The Big-3 would be favourites to qualify for the final edition of the ATP Finals in London. But in terms of their title aspirations, the other contenders have a much better chance of breaking through at this season-ending tournament than at the Grand Slams.

Federer won the last of record 6 titles in 2011 and has subsequently fallen in the finals in 2012, 2014-15. Djokovic, a 5-time champion, hasn't won the ATP Finals since 2015 and during the intervening period has lost title matches to Andy Murray (2016) and Sascha Zverev (2018). Nadal made the last of his 2 finals at the tournament in 2013 and has generally struggled to be a regular fixture at the season-ender.

#3: Masters 1000

Nadal won his 35th Masters 1000 title at the 2019 Coupe Rogers in Montreal

The first player to play 50 Masters 1000 finals after Federer, Nadal lifted a record-extending 35th Masters 1000 title at the 2019 Coupe Rogers in Montreal. Djokovic subsequently closed the gap in the all-time title leaderboard to one by triumphing in his 50th Masters 1000 final at the Paris-Bercy Masters.

Much like the ATP Finals, the Masters 1000s have seen several first-time winners or finalists in recent years. Denis Shapovalov, Daniil Medvedev, and Stefanos Tsitsipas are collectively 0/4 in Masters 1000 finals while Dominic Thiem (Indian Wells) and Fabio Fognini (Monte Carlo) lifted their first titles in this tournament category in 2019.

While the Big-3 would be favourites to add to their Masters 1000 record title tallies, other players are also likely to hog the limelight in 2020.

#4: Olympics

Nadal won the Olympics single's gold at 2008 Beijing

Nadal is the only Big-3 member to win a single's gold at the Olympics, winning the title at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Federer lost his lone Olympics singles gold medal match to Andy Murray on the grass courts of Wimbledon in 2012 while Djokovic is yet to make the title match.

Both Federer (2008) and Nadal (2016) have won doubles' gold medals at the Olympics.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics is likely to be the last Olympics where the Big-3 would make a collective appearance. With a field likely to be as strong as at a ATP 500 or a Masters 1000 tournament, it could be a difficult proposition for the Big-3 to thwart other players and win the singles' gold in the Japanese capital.

# 5: Other landmarks

Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer (from left to right)

2020 is expected to be one of the final seasons where the Big-3 of Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic would collectively be in action and in the reckoning for the biggest titles.

Among other major landmarks awaiting the Big-3 in 2020, is the fact that each of the 3 members can look forward to be the first players in the Open Era or otherwise to win each of the 4 Grand Slam tournaments twice (Federer, Djokovic at the French Open; Nadal at the Australian Open).

Besides, Djokovic would have his sights on Federer's all-time record of most weeks at no. 1 (310) if the Serb is able to wrestle back the numero uno spot from Nadal in the first four months of the new season. Federer has the 100-match wins landmark awaiting him at the Australian Open where the Swiss would perhaps be more interested in increasing his Grand Slam title tally.

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Edited by S Chowdhury
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