Tennis is one of the world’s most popular sports and is enjoyed by millions of people across the world. The game is associated with class and sophistication, but beneath its polished veneer tennis is, in fact, a punishing sport that requires near-superhuman levels of dedication and endurance to succeed in.
For this reason, only a select few players rise to the top of tennis, and few exemplify this more than Djokovic, Nadal, and Murray. Let’s take a look at these legends of the game and discuss who, if anyone, is set to take their place as they enter the twilight years of their careers.
The Big Four Becomes Three
Since around 2008, tennis has been dominated by four big names. These being Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, and Roger Federer. Between them, they hoovered up all the trophies and major honours available and were largely unbeatable by anyone outside of this elite quartet.
In 2022, Federer retired from tennis after an illustrious career, meaning the big four then became three. Even without the mercurial Swiss, the big three remained a formidable force. Let’s take a look at each of the big three’s achievements to give you an idea of just how dominant they are and continue to be.
Serbian Novak Djokovic turned pro in 2003. Since then, he has won 23 Grand Slam men’s singles trophies, an all-time record. He is the only male player to have achieved a triple Career Grand Slam, winning each of the majors three times or more.
Rafael Nadal turned pro in 2001 and is considered Djokovic’s biggest rival. He is currently ranked as the world number one by the Association of Tennis Professionals. He has won 22 Grand Slam men’s singles titles and will be eyeing Djokovic’s record.
Andy Murray has won three Grand Slam men’s singles titles, and 46 ATP tour singles titles. While he has significantly fewer trophies than Djokovic or Nadal, he is widely considered to be one of their greatest rivals given his talent and his ability to excel in high-pressure tournaments and matches.
Is the Age of the Big Three Over?
The big three have been fantastic for tennis. They’ve brought millions more fans to the game and have made it easier for bookies when setting the odds for folks who bet on tennis in South Africa and the wider world.
However, the career of any professional athlete is a short one. Humans are only at their physical peak for a small window, so does this mean the era of the big three could soon be at an end.
After Federer retired last year, many were hopeful we still had several years of Djokovic, Nadal, and Murray to look forward to. However, Djokovic was recently beaten on Wimbledon’s Centre Court for the first time in 10 years, and Nadal and Murray have been beset by injury issues. This could be a sign that the big three’s grip on tennis is beginning to slip.
Who could be set to take over from Djokovic, Nadal, and Murray? Let’s find out.
In July, the tennis world looked on in astonishment as Djokovic’s reign over Centre Court came to an end. The most surprising thing was that it wasn’t Nadal or Murray who defeated him, but a 20-year Spanish player by the name of Carlos Alcaraz.
Don’t be mistaken, Alcaraz is by no means some unknown newcomer. He is widely considered to be one of the best players in the world, famed for his speed, balance, and terrific ball-striking power. He firmly established his place in the game with his victory over Djokovic and will certainly go on to achieve great things.
Italian Jannik Sinner has achieved a rank of number six in the world, and the 22-year-old has won eight ATP tour titles so far. He is famed for his poise and grace on the court, with many drawing comparisons with Federer, and displays a maturity and composure to his game beyond that of his years.
Danish Holger Rune is just 20 years old but has already won four ATP tour titles and has achieved a world rank of number five. He won the Paris Masters aged just 19, the youngest player to do so since Boris Becker, and has been compared to Djokovic due to his unrelenting dedication and often fiery demeanour.
Players like Djokovic, Nadal, and Murray come along very rarely, and it’s even rarer that they appear at the same time. However, while tennis fans will certainly miss them, the game is in good hands with Alcaraz, Sinner, and Rune.