High Expectations For Those Aiming To Topple The Big Three In 2020 - UBITENNIS
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High Expectations For Those Aiming To Topple The Big Three In 2020

Will the reign of Rafael Nadal and Co at grand slams finally come to an end this year?

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There seems to be a sense of hope that 2020 will be the year where there will be a substantial changing of the guard on the men’s tour.

 

One again the new tennis season starts with three headline acts – Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. Known as the Big Three, they are regarded as some of the greatest players in history. Between them, they have they won 51 out of the last 59 grand slam tournaments and at least one of them have featured in the final in 57 out of the last 59 majors. They remain the leaders of the tour, but the question is how much longer for?

“I think we challenged them already a lot. We also beat them especially on Masters 1000 stages and the ATP Finals,” two-time French Open finalist Dominic Thiem said on Thursday.
“I think the last stage we have to conquer is the Grand Slam stage, and I really think we’ll see a new Grand Slam champion in 2020.”

26-year-old Thiem is a member of the contingent aiming to replace the illustrious Big Three in the future. The Austrian made steady waves in 2019 by claiming his first Masters title in Indian Wells and reaching the final of the ATP Finals in November. Overall, he claimed five titles during the last season. Something that was only matched by rival Djokovic.

“I really hope that it’s me, but you cannot guarantee anything. There are also many other very strong guys who can achieve that.” Thiem commented about the perspective of grand slam glory.
“Maybe it’s also not happening and Big Three are taking all four,” he added.
“But we are trying everything to achieve top position, to achieve the biggest titles, Grand Slam titles.”

Thiem’s record against the Big Three (ATP only)
– Djokovic: 4-6
– Nadal: 4-9
– Federer: 5-2

It isn’t the first time at the start of the season there has been talk about a new name breaking through in grand slam tennis. Over the past decade, only two players outside of the Big Three have managed to win multiple major trophies. They were Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray.

For some of the challengers, the new year will be as much as a mental battle as a physical one. Stefanos Tsitsipas, who is the youngest player in the top 10, is hoping to continue his momentum from winning the ATP Finals. The upcoming weeks will be crucial for him. He will be defending 720 ranking points at the Australian Open following his run to the semi-finals almost 12 months ago.

“For me, it’s very challenging to go out there and compete against them (the Big Three).” Said Tsitsipas.
“I feel like there’s something extra to chase after when I play against them, plus I get to learn a lot when I play against them.
“I feel more of a complete player,” he added.
“I kind of compare them to me to see what works for them and what should I work on more, and they’re just superhumans in a way.
“But I’m trying to get there myself and I’m going to keep trying to do my best because I feel like I can surpass them, I can be better.
“It’s just a matter of time, patience, and dedication on what I do.”

Tsitsipas recently experienced once again what it is like to be on the losing end against the trio. In Abu Dhabi he lost a marathon clash against Nadal in the final of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship. Losing in the final set tiebreak.

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Another challenger comes in the form of Daniil Medvedev. Who shot to the limelight last year by reaching six consecutive finals, including the US Open. It was the consistency displayed by the Russian that excited many. Despite his dip in form towards the end of last year, one former doubles star believes he has what it takes to go one better at the Australian Open.

“I’m going with Medvedev,” 16-time grand slam champion Woodbridge said.
“That run he had through the US Open was just phenomenal. I think he believes, I reckon he thinks he can get into a final and take those guys out.
“He’s also the most dynamic of that group. He’s going to run all day long, he’s going to keep that ball going.”

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Other contenders aiming for a breakthrough include Alexander Zverev. Somebody previously billed as a future world No.1, but is yet to progress beyond the quarter-finals of major. The Canadian duo of Denis Shapovalov and Felix-Auger Aliassime hope to continue their country’s rapid rise in the sport. Meanwhile, Italy is enjoying a rise in the tennis calibre of their younger players thanks to the Matteo Berrettini and Jannik Sinner.

“I don’t think that the Big Three are going to win all four (grand slams in 2020),” Nadal told French newspaper L’Equipe.“A young player is going to arrive next year.”

Since 2005, only two men outside of the Big Three have managed to win the Australian Open title. One of those was Marat Safin, who will be shortly marking the 15th anniversary of his triumph. Safin, who is the captain of the Russian team at the ATP Cup, is hopeful that a change will come soon.

“This group of three – Roger, Rafa, and Djokovic – is something unique in tennis that has never happened,” Safin said.
“They are incredible, especially Roger. I wish them to play a little bit longer, but I also wish to the young ones to retire them earlier.”

The Australian Open will start on January 20th.

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Playing Clay Events After Wimbledon Was A Mistake, Says Diego Schwartzman

The former French Open semi-finalist is seeking to win his first title since March 2021 at the Tel Aviv Open this week.

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Diego Schwartzman (Roberto Dell'Olivo)

Diego Schwartzman will likely reevaluate his schedule for next year after admitting that part of his plans for this summer backfired. 

 

The world No.17 enters into the final quarter of the season with 31 wins against 22 losses on the Tour but is yet to win a title. Although he did reach back-to-back finals back in February in Argentina and Brazil. He has won two out of eight matches against top 10 opposition, defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas at the ATP Cup and Felix Auger-Aliassime in Barcelona. 

Reflecting on his performance, Schwartzman admits that his decision to return to European clay after playing at Wimbledon was a mistake. He lost his second match in Gstaad to Pablo Carreno Busta and then his first in Hamburg to Emil Ruusuvori. 

“It’s difficult to play at the same level every tournament, I’ve made a bad decision playing clay tournaments after Wimbledon, I didn’t have time to rest,” he said during his pre-tournament press conference at the Tel Aviv Open. “I paid the price and had some bad losses. But I started to feel much better in USA hard court season, lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas who reached the final in Cincinnati and to Frances Tiafoe at the US Open. Now I am feeling very good, I really love playing indoor tournaments.”

The 30-year-old has headed straight to Tel Aviv from the Laver Cup where Roger Federer played the last match of his career. Despite Schwartzman’s Team World winning the title for the first time, his only contribution to the tie saw him lose 6-1, 6-2, to Tsitsipas. 

Retirement was very much the topic of conversation during the Laver Cup with others such as Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic questioned by reporters about their plans in the sport. As for Schwartzman, he stayed coy about how much longer he would continue playing after saying in the past he might stop at the age of 33. 

“33 — is a good age to retire, isn’t it? South Americans are in different situations compared to European players. We travel too much, and sometimes we are not coming back home for 2-3 months, while Europeans can fly home every week. It’s tough,” he said. 
“As for Roger — he’s a special player, I think he is just the greatest in our sport.”

The Argentine is seeded third this week in Israel and will begin his campaign against Arthur Rinderknech who defeated qualifier Marius Copil in his opening match. 

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Laver Cup Daily Preview: Team Europe Goes for a Fifth Straight Laver Cup

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The lineup for Day 3 (twitter.com/lavercup)

Heading into Day 3, the 2022 Laver Cup is feeling extremely familiar.  Team Europe has an 8-4 advantage, and only needs two wins on Sunday to secure their fifth consecutive Laver Cup.  Team World needs to win three matches to pull off the upset and obtain their first. 

 

Sunday’s play gets underway in London at 12:00pm local time.  And each match on Sunday is worth three points.


Matteo Berrettini and Andy Murray (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime and Jack Sock (Team World) – 12:00pm

Berrettini was victorious in both singles and doubles on Saturday, defeating Auger-Aliassime in singles, and teaming with Djokovic to overcome Sock and de Minaur in doubles.  So Matteo gained victories over both of his Sunday opponents on Saturday.  Murray lost to de Minaur in singles on Friday.  Andy and Jack are the most accomplished doubles players in this match, as Sock is pretty much Team World’s doubles specialist.  If he and Felix cannot pull of the victory on Sunday, it could be a pretty short day.


Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (Team World)

Like Berrettini, Djokovic won in singles and doubles on Saturday, comfortably dispatching of Tiafoe in singles.  While it was his first match in over two months, Novak showed no rust whatsoever.  Auger-Aliassime’s loss to Berrettini on Saturday will not help his confidence against the 21-time Major champion.

Novak and Felix have only played once before, and that occurred four months ago in Rome on clay.  It was a pretty tight affair, but Djokovic prevailed 7-5, 7-6(1).  And there’s not much evidence to support a different outcome on Sunday.  Novak is surely eager to re-assert his authority after missing so much of this season due to his vaccination status.


Stefanos Tsitsipas (Team Europe) vs. Frances Tiafoe (Team World) – If Necessary

Tsitsipas easily beat Diego Schwartzman on Friday, dropping just three games.  He is 3-2 against Tiafoe, and 3-1 on hard courts.  However, Frances claimed their most recent encounter, last fall in Vienna, which was also on an indoor hard court.


Casper Ruud (Team Europe) vs. Taylor Fritz (Team World) – If Necessary

Ruud defeated Sock on Friday, while Fritz defeated Norrie on Saturday.  If this match takes place, it will be their first career meeting.


The full Laver Cup schedule is here.

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Laver Cup Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic to Play Singles and Doubles on Saturday

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The lineup for Day 2 (twitter.com/lavercup)

In the wake of Roger Federer’s incredibly emotional retirement on Day 1, the focus of this event shifts to the rest of the competitors on Day 2.  And for the first time in the five-year history of the Laver Cup, Team World goes into Day 2 without a deficit.  With both Federer and Rafael Nadal replaced by alternates for Day 2 and Day 3, is this Team World’s opportunity to capture their first Laver Cup? 

 

Each day, this preview will look at all four scheduled matches, while taking an extended look at the most notable match of the day.  Saturday’s day session gets underway in London at 1:00pm local time, and the night session at 7:00pm.  And each match on Saturday is worth two points.


Matteo Berrettini (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (Team World) – 1:00pm

These two good friends have played four times, with Berrettini winning on three of those occasions.  Matteo’s wins came three years ago in the final of Stuttgart on grass, in the quarterfinals of last year’s Wimbledon, and a year ago in this event.  Auger-Aliassime’s only win occurred last summer in Cincinnati.  Matteo is coming off a quarterfinal run in New York, as well as three victories last week in Davis Cup.  Felix was upset in the second round of the US Open by Jack Draper, and went 2-1 in Davis Cup.


Cameron Norrie (Team Europe) vs. Taylor Fritz (Team World) – Second in the Day Session

Norrie was also an alternate in last year’s Laver Cup, but did not play.  Fritz was a part of Team World in 2019, when he went 1-1 in singles, defeating Dominic Thiem during Sunday’s play in a must-win match to keep his team alive.  Cam is now 45-22 on the year, while Fritz is 36-17.  Both men achieved their best-ever Major performances two months ago at Wimbledon.  They played each other just last week in Davis Cup, with Norrie prevailing after three tight sets.  Overall they have split 10 previous meetings.


Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Frances Tiafoe (Team World) – 7:00pm

Is Tiafoe ready to upset another member of “The Big Three” on Saturday?  He earned the biggest win of his career by taking out Rafael Nadal at the US Open, and defeated Nadal and Federer in doubles on Day 1 alongside Jack Sock.  Meanwhile, this will be the first match for Djokovic in over two months, since he won the Wimbledon final over Nick Kyrgios.  The unvaccinated Novak was unable to travel to North America for the hard court summer season.

Djokovic has only played seven tournaments this year, amassing a record of 23-5.  Tiafoe is 26-19, and is coming off his exciting semifinal run in New York.  Their only previous matchup was at the 2021 Australian Open, when Novak defeated Frances in four sets.  Frances is certainly the much more match-tough player on this day.  But despite his recent inactivity, Djokovic should still be considered the favorite.


Matteo Berrettini and Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Alex de Minaur and Jack Sock (Team World) – Second in the Night Session

Novak will have only a few minutes of rest ahead of this doubles match, so the length of his match with Tiafoe could impact the result here.  This will be Novak’s first time playing doubles since last year’s Davis Cup finals.  Berrettini played three doubles matches this past January at the ATP Cup, going 1-2.  De Minaur overcame Andy Murray in singles on Friday in what was a grueling contest, while Sock was defeated in singles and victorious in doubles.


The full Laver Cup schedule is here.

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