For the last 15 years, we have witnessed the three best tennis players of all time. The Big 3, which includes Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic have spoiled us for more than a decade and a half with the level of talent and skill they posses. When their careers finally end, they will be regarded as the three best players to ever play this game.
Just think at how lucky we have been as tennis fans to witness the three best players of all time, all playing at the same time. Imagine if only one of them existed in this time period. They might have 35 or even 40 major titles. Maybe that dominance would not be as enjoyable to fans as seeing three of the best battle it out. We all want to see who can get to the most majors by the time their careers are over.
It is sad to think about, but Roger Federer just recently turned 39 years old. He has not won a major since winning the Australian Open in 2017, and has battled many injuries in the latter part of his career. With Roger Federer near the end of his career, it is important as fans to cherish this last year or two of the Big 3 all competing together.
Longevity & History of the Big 3
Roger Federer first turned pro in 1998. Rafael Nadal first turned pro in 2001. Novak Djokovic first turned pro in 2003. Who would have thought after this many years, that these three would still be ranked in the top 5 in the world in 2020. It all started when Federer won his first grand slam in 2003. Nadal soon followed when he won his first major title in 2005 at the French Open, while Djokovic took a little longer when he finally won his first at the Australian Open in 2008.
From 2008 onwards, the favorite to win each major was either Federer, Nadal, or Djokovic and continues to be the case now. Each of them has their own favorite surface. Federer, who loves the grass of Wimbledon, winning it a record eight times. Djokovic, who loves the hard courts of Melbourne, winning the Australian Open a record eight times. Then there is Nadal and his love for the clay, winning the French Open an astonishing record 13 times. It is unbelievable to think that the grand slam record before the Big 3 arrived was 14 by Pete Sampras. Nadal has 13 at just the French Open.
What Makes The Big 3 Unique
The playing styles of the Big 3 could not be more different. Federer is right handed with a one handed backhand and is known for having the “perfect” tennis swing. Although there no such thing as the perfect swing, fans will use this word to describe both his swing and style of play. Maybe the correct wording would be to say his game is the most visually appealing.
Then we have Nadal, a lefty with a two handed backhand. Nadal is known for having the hardest work ethic, never giving up on a single point. He is usually in a full sweat before the warmup has even started. His strokes may not be “perfect”, but he will make you hit several perfect shots to win a single point.
Lastly, we have Djokovic’s style of play. He is right handed with a two handed backhand, and is known for having an amazing all around game. His forehand is great, and his backhand and return of serve are among the best. What sets Djokovic apart from everyone else is his movement. He has the greatest court movement of all time. He can turn a defensive position into hitting an offensive shot with his incredible court coverage.
The future of tennis looks promising. We have already seen Dominic Thiem rise to the challenge and win his first major. We also have some up and coming young stars in Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, Felix Auger-Aliassime, and others. Men’s tennis will have great players taking over once the Big 3 eventually retire. However, when they do retire, there will be a feeling that something is missing. How can there not be? We were spoiled to get to watch the three greatest players of all time together for more than a decade.
Unfortunately, we do have to start to think about tennis after the Big 3. I know Nadal is 34 and Djokovic 33, but Nadal has battled many injuries and may only have three or four more years. Although we will have at least one member of the Big 3 still playing in four years, we know Federer will not be one of them. Federer is much older than Nadal and Djokovic and is struggling with injuries, showing that father time is undefeated. 2021 might be the final year we get to see all three compete for the same title. So, with maybe a year or two left, this is the time, as fans, to savor every moment we can watching these three play at the same time, because once it is gone, men’s tennis will have a huge hole to fill.