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  • Writer's pictureWayne Phillips

Tennis' twilight changing of the Grand Slam guard

From left, Federer, Djokovic and Nadal at a January 2010 Melbourne exhibition tennis match

The French Open win by Serbian tennis superstar Novak Djokovic over Greek sensation Stephanos Tsitsipas shines the light of an inevitable new dawn in men’s tennis.

Tsitsipas lost in five sets after leading 2 sets to nil. He was gallant in defeat - as many others have been - against the greatest three players the men’s game has ever seen.

Roger Federer (20 Grand Slams), Rafael Nadal (also 20) and Djokovic (19) have seen off many challengers in their 20-year reign collecting a combined 59 titles at the top of men’s Grand Slam tennis.

Lleyton Hewett, Andy Roddick, Marat Safin, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Marin Cilic and Dominic Thiem have had successes, however none like the sustained greatness of the big 3.

If Novak wins Wimbledon, then they are all equal - and Djokovic's chances of drawing level improved with Nadal declaring he would pass on Wimbledon after a gruelling clay court season. If Djokovic pulls alongside Rafa and the Fed Express on 20 titles, an amazing moment won’t go unnoticed by the tennis loving world, but their dominance will come to an end and with it the greatest era of men’s professional tennis.

Federer will play Wimbledon at 40 years of age and is the least likely of the three to add to his vast victories in the biggest 4 tournaments, the Australian, US, French and UK Opens.

Nadal could win the French again for an unprecedented 14th time.

Djokovic is likely to win one more sometime, particularly on his best surface in Melbourne and he is younger than Nadal and Federer and looks extremely fit.

So, who will challenge and begin the new era of men’s tennis? Maybe, one needs to look back and consider the past for answers to this question.

Talented players have emerged from all around the world during the post second world war Amateur to Open Eras of world tennis. Australia dominated men’s tennis in the 19560’s and 60’s up until the Open era. Emerson, Laver, Hoad, Sedgeman, Rosewall, Newcombe and Cooper. A golden time considering Margaret Smith (Court) was dominating women’s tennis.

The USA and Sweden took control in the 1970’s to 80’s with Jimmy Connors, Arthur Ashe, John McEnroe dominating while Sweden had the great Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilander and Stephan Egberg playing ice-cool tennis against the ‘hot heads’ like German Boris Becker and of course McEnroe and Connors! Only Pat Cash at Wimbledon in 1987 featured for Australia. Also notable was the Czech player Ivan Lendl.

The nineties saw the domination of the Pete Sampras era who together with Jim Courier, Andre Agassi and Michael Chang had the USA on top with brief interludes from European clay court specialists like the Spaniards Bruguera and Moya plus Muster from Austria, Kafelnikov the Russian and Brazilian French Open specialist Gustavo Kuerten.

As Pat Rafter, Mark Philipoussis and Lleyton Hewett began putting Australia back on the tennis map, a young Swiss player (Federer) began with an Australian coach and took the tennis world by storm winning Wimbledon in 2003. He would win 12 of 18 Majors between the end of 2003 and 2007.

So who will emerge? Thiem, Tsitsipas, Zverev or Daniil Medvedev?

Maybe we will never see another Federer, Nadal or Djokovic.


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