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.
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.”
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.
Monte Carlo Breakthrough Leaves Andrey Rublev With Mixed Emotions
The world No.8 takes confidence from his latest run but admits it is ‘impossible’ to play at his very top level every week on the Tour.
After achieving a career milestone at the Monte Carlo Masters, Andrey Rublev was sent crashing down to earth on Sunday.
The Russian tennis star broke new territory at the tournament by reaching his first ever Masters 1000 final at the age of 23. However, he was denied the title by Stefanos Tsitsipas who produced a clinical performance to seal victory in just 71 minutes. Ending Rublev’s run of winning seven finals in a row.
“I feel happy with the week, and I feel super sad with the final, that I couldn’t show my game,” he told reporters on Sunday.
“Of course, I’m happy with the week because I beat so many great players and I beat one of the best players in history. It’s a special week.”
Earlier in the tournament Rublev stunned the draw when he upset Rafael Nadal in three sets en route to the semi-finals. Making it the fourth time in his career he has scored a win over a player ranked No.3 in the world. He is also the first player in history to come back from a set down to defeat Nadal at the tournament.
Besides the king of clay, Rublev also dismissed Roberto Bautista Agut and Casper Ruud. He has now won 24 matches on the ATP Tour this season which is more than anybody else. However, he is reluctant to link all of his match play with his latest performance.
“I feel tired after all the matches that I play, exhausted. But this is not excuse. He was just better than me, and that’s it,” he stated.
“Not always everything goes your way. It happened today. I was completely exhausted. Stefanos, he showed great game. He was just better than me, and that’s it.”
Despite his recent success, Rublev is eager to not get too far ahead of himself heading into the French Open. A Grand Slam where he has only played in the main draw twice before, including last year where he reached the quarter-finals.
“I would like to play really good in Madrid and I would like to play really good in Rome. I would like to play all of the weeks good. But it’s impossible,” he explains.
“Some of the weeks for sure will be better, some will be worse and some will be amazing.’
“For the moment I’m playing really consistent. I’m really happy I’m playing my best season so far. We’ll see what’s going to happen.”
Rublev is set to return to action next week at the Barcelona Open where he will be the third seed.
Former Australian Open Semi-Finalist Kyle Edmund Undergoes Surgery
It has been reported that the world No.69 may not be able to return to the Tour for ‘several more months.’
British world No.69 Kyle Edmund is set to be sidelined from the Tour for some time after having surgery to treat a long-standing problem in Switzerland.
The former British No.1 has confirmed he had a ‘small procedure’ on his knee after being hampered with issues in the area ever since 2018 when a scan revealed that he had fluid behind his left knee. Details of the surgery have not been disclosed by the person who conducted the operation was Dr Roland Biedert, according to BBC Sport. A specialist Orthopaedic surgeon who has also operated on Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka and Juan Martin del Potro.
“I had a small procedure on my knee. I’m currently rehabbing. The recovery is going well and I hope to be back on court as soon as possible.” Edmund said.
Currently ranked 69th in the world, Edmund hasn’t played a competitive match since losing in the first round of qualifying at the Vienna Open last October due to his knee. 2020 saw mixed fortunes for the 26-year-old. After winning the New York Open during February of that year, he lost seven out of 10 matches played during the rest of the season. Including five defeats in a row.
No return date has been outlined by Edmund or his team following the surgery. However, British media have reported that he may be out for ‘several more months.’ Casting doubts over his chances of being ready in time for Wimbledon which starts on June 28th. He hasn’t been absent from a Wimbledon main draw since 2012.
Edmund has been ranked as high as 14th in the world with his best Grand Slam run being to the semi-finals of the 2018 Australian Open. Overall, he has won two ATP titles and has earned more than $5.7 in prize money.
Grigor Dimitrov Blames Poor Monte Carlo Performance On ‘Big Infection’
The 29-year-old reveals the reason behind his error-stricken performance at the Monte Carlo Country Club on Thursday.
Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov said he simply ‘didn’t play’ in his latest match at the Monte Carlo Masters after winning just two games against Rafael Nadal.
The world No.17 fell 6-1, 6-1, to the 20-time Grand Slam champion in less than an hour on Thursday. He won 48% of his first service points and 32% of his second, as he hit 32 unforced errors. A dismal performance from Dimitrov who had beaten Jan-Lennard Struff and Jeremy Chardy earlier in the tournament.
Whilst it was never going to be easy playing somebody of Nadal’s calibre, Dimitrov has revealed that he had been troubled by an issue away from the court. He has been suffering from a ‘big infection’ in his tooth which has had an impact on his preparation for the match.
“I’ve been struggling with a massive tooth problem for the past four or five days,” he said. “I have a big infection in my tooth. It’s been hard. I haven’t been able to sleep well or eat well or anything like that.’
“I was bearing it for a while this whole week.”
It is another case of bad luck for Dimitrov on the Tour this season. At the Australian Open he reached the quarter-finals in what was his best Grand Slam performance since the 2019 US Open. However, in his last eight showdown with Russia’s Aslan Karatsev he was hindered by a back injury.
“It’s straight to the doctor’s, unfortunately,” he commented on his tooth. “Very, very unpleasant moment. It is what it is.’
“At least I’m glad it happened on a home soil so I can go see my dentist and figure this problem as soon as possible.Hopefully it’s not too serious and I’ll be able to come back as soon as possible.”
Speaking in his press conference, Nadal said he ‘felt sorry’ for his opponent who ‘played a bad match.’ During the match the world No.3 wasn’t aware of Dimitrov’s problem but was told about it afterwards.
“I wish him all the best. He’s a great guy, a good friend. I just hope the situation is to improve as soon as possible,” he said.
Nadal, who is seeking a record 12th title in Monte Carlo, will play Russia’s Andrey Rublev next.
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