In the history of sport, and even more so, in tennis, it is nigh impossible that we will ever witness another 3 players who will reign over the sport the way that Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer did in their hey-day. We’ve seen time and time again the kind of comeback that Rafael Nadal has cooked up. Whether he is in front or behind, the word implosion is not synonymous with Rafael Nadal. Djokovic, on the other hand, is a black mamba. Cold blooded on court under extremely high pressure situations, you do not want to be trapped in the stadium with Djokovic with a lead in grand slam final. Serving out that final set against him is almost akin to trying to kill a snake once and for all. Off court, Djokovic couldn’t be a nicer person. On court, he is a snake looking to pounce.
No player amongst next gen has actually beaten either one of Nadal or Djokovic and also gone on to win the Australian Open, Roland Garros or Wimbledon. Every year, the same situation seems to continually keep repeating itself in these 3 majors. The only player outside of the “big 4” who managed to beat Nadal or Djokovic at Australian Open, Roland Garros or Wimbledon and win a major is Stan Wawrinka. Unfortunately, Stan Wawrinka is 37 years old, and thus there is no expectation for him to replicate those feats.
So who do we look to? Every player that has won a grand slam has seemed to become broken or physically not ready to compete consistently at slam level. When Dominic Thiem finally broke that barrier and won his first major title, his body suddenly collapsed and he hasn’t been the same since, almost 3 years on. If it’s not physical, it’s mental. Dominic Thiem was excellent in the mental department, and did not let losing 3 grand slam finals play on his confidence. The same cannot be said however of Daniil Medvedev. Medvedev has seemingly had his confidence broken after last year’s Australian Open final loss to Rafael Nadal. 12 months on and Medvedev has not made a single grand slam final, let alone won one.
However, there’s another category to be mindful of: top players who can go incredibly deep but haven’t exhibited the killer instinct under pressure situations. Ironically, Medvedev has a whole lot of ice in his veins- and is one of the few next gen players who could find another level against Nadal and Djokovic. Stefanos Tsitsipas, on the other hand, gave up a 2-sets-to -love lead in a grand slam final to Novak Djokovic. He then has proceeded to lose his last 4 straight head-to head matchups against the Serbian maestro. Is this the level we should expect from the very best tennis players in the world who are nearing (or above) 25 years of age? It seems that even at their physical peak, the next generation is seemingly not good enough to dethrone Djokovic and Nadal to win the Australian Open, Roland Garros or Wimbledon. Since 2019, nobody besides Djokovic or Nadal has managed to win either of these 3 big grand slams.
This is a real concern. Time is certainly ticking. While next gen might win a major here and there, are they truly ready to make a mark on 3 of the 4 biggest tournaments on offer? The Australian Open, Wimbledon and Roland Garros champions lists over the last 5 years has still remained unbelievably similar to the list from15 years ago. If we are to praise the next gen as the contenders, should they not be expected to win at least one of either the Australian Open, Roland Garros or Wimbledon?