Match Points # 23: “Djokovic, Nadal and Federer are not ready to leave the place”
Novak Djokovic’s dominant victory in Melbourne over Daniil Medvedev helped prolong the Big Three’s stranglehold on men’s tennis. In Episode #23 of Match Points we wonder when the NextGen might take the torch.
The beatdown that Novak Djokovic handed Daniil Medvedev in the 2021 Australian Open final has caused many to realize that it is simply not worth it to bet against the Big Three. But that hasn’t stopped us from wondering, when will the torch be passed – if ever?
On Match Points #23, host Josh Cohen put the questions to our panel featuring Marion Bartoli, Ben Rothenberg and Simon Cambers and this is how they responded.
How long can the Big Three hold down the fort?
When a Grand Slam is fully loaded with Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer, does the rest of the tour have any chance? Daniil Medvedev has now advanced to two slam finals, but he came up short against Nadal at the 2019 US Open and came up a lot shorter against Djokovic earlier this month in Melbourne. Tsitsipas has reached major semi-finals on three occasions but is 0-3 at that stage.
The general consensus is that even though the gap is narrowing, but the next generation is still lagging, says Cambers.
“I think it’s on two levels: in a general way it has closed a little bit because Tsitsipas is getting to semis, Medvedev is making finals, Zverev made a final, Thiem won one last year. They’re getting there, but they’re still not taking over the game. It’s still Djokovic and Nadal winning the slams. More and more these days, the game is measured by who’s winning the Grand Slams.”
Rothenberg says that on the men’s side there has not been a moment where it was apparent that the torch was being passed from one generation to the next.
“Someone young, coming up and winning a final against a big, established player – we have not had that in men’s tennis,” he said. “We’re really missing a transition in men’s tennis, until we get that it’s business as usual.”
Bartoli concurs that at slams, the gap is still obvious.
“Medvedev was able to beat Djokovic in two sets at last year’s London championship, but [the Big 3] only care about the Grand Slams. For Novak, Rafa, and Roger, it’s just about how many Grand Slams they can get…. For the young guns it’s going to be so hard just to win one because they will have to beat [at least two of the Big 3]. The five-setters, the physical part, the mental part, I think they are not quite there yet.”