The dominant trio in the men's tennis world (Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic) have shared a total of 53 Major titles among themselves, leaving a mere 11 titles for their competitors to grab since their arrival. Their impact on the sport over the past decade and a half has been enormous, and they continue to win a majority of the Slam titles every year.
But where does that leave the young players and the members of the Next Gen brigade? Rising Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas told reporters recently that he would like to see something different this year at the Championships. He also said it was boring to see these three players winning all the time.
Even the legendary Boris Becker has reprimanded the young players for not doing enough to end the hegemony of the big three.
Looking at this from the perspective of young players, it is disheartening to see the same names on the trophy year after year even though they have been successful in defeating the Big 3 in tournaments outside the Majors.
For instance, Dominic Thiem, who has defeated all the three players at various stages this year and came quite close to winning the French Open, eventually bowed down to the mastery of Nadal on Court Philippe Chatrier. And he had to go through a tremendous physical test to even get to that stage. Thiem had to beat Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals at Roland Garros, a match took more than 4 hours to complete, before turning around in less than a day to take on the King of Clay.
To face Nadal immediately after Djokovic and expect to defeat the Spaniard is an impossible task for any player on tour. But that is the amount of effort required to claim a Major title when these three players are in full flow.
As Tsitsipas said, someone from his age group should win the title at one of the remaining two Majors this year or else it will become difficult for the younger generation to receive the applause and love the top players are being showered with since the last decade or so.
When the trio retire, the fans and tennis enthusiasts will obviously look for other options and they might pick any of the current younger players to cheer and support for. But the younger players should not be considered as a last-resort option but as the main reason for the world to watch tennis. For that to happen, one of these younger players needs to rise to the occasion and start winning Majors.
When Federer started his victory march, he defeated players who were considered the best back then - the likes of Marat Safin, Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt, etc. Federer was even successful against aging legends Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, and later Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in the initial stages of their careers. The Swiss therefore made a name for himself with ease; he came to be known as someone who could defeat both the past and the future stars.
Nadal, on the other hand, defeated Federer on numerous occasions and that was what made the fans consider him as one of the game's greatest as well. He defeated the best player of his generation and became the best.
It was Djokovic who blossomed the last as it took a while for him to make adjustments to his game and eventually upstage both of his legendary peers.
None of the new players have shown the same kind of challenge to the Big 3. Of course, a lot depends on the draw and the fitness of the players too, but the Next Gen players need to be ready irrespective of the situation; they cannot simply let experience dominate talent over and over again.
One thing the younger players have going for them is that they believe they can defeat the Big 3, at least in regular tour events. But when it comes to big moments in big matches we can see their confidence slowly slipping away, like the match between Djokovic and Alexander Zverev in the just-concluded French Open.
It would take one brave player to instill the confidence among the rest that they can defeat the top three instead of waiting for them to retire before they claim a Major. It seems only a matter of time before that happens, but so far the youngsters have only flattered to deceive.
We can hope for things to change this year at Wimbledon, as the tennis world would love to see a young player lifting the trophy, but until it happens we can't have too high expectations.