We have lived through a glorious period in men’s tennis history for the past decade and a half, with the triumvirate of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic engaged in a thrilling battle for supremacy and legacy at the top of the sport.
When you throw titans like Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and Juan Martin Del Potro in alongside them, it’s arguable that this era has been the greatest in men’s tennis history. But despite the clear depth that has been present in the game, the aforementioned trio have completely dominated the title landscape.
Starting with Federer’s first major win at Wimbledon in 2003, the Big Three of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have combined to win 51 ‘Grand Slams’ out of the last 62. It just so happens that more than 80% of the major events across the past sixteen years have been won by these three men.
Djokovic and Nadal are currently on a collision course to meet in the 2019 Australian Open Final, and at the time of writing a Djokovic vs Nadal final is a best-priced 1/5 across online sports betting Canada sites like Ladbrokes and Coral.
With the Big Three ageing, where is the next generation of stars on the men’s tour? It’s a question that we’ve asking for years, but at this year’s Australian Open we may finally have found the answer.
20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas sent shockwaves through the draw when he eliminated defending champion Federer in the fourth round, ousting the Swiss maestro in four electrifying sets and producing the kind of elegant, eye-catching winners that only Federer was thought to possess.
The young Greeks’ odds to win the Australia Open have been slashed from a high of 50/1 to 12/1 across most bookmakers after he beat Roger Federer. This may not have been a surprise amongst ardent tennis followers after reaching the final of the Canadian Masters last year, and he looks set to make the mainstream.
Following the victory over Federer, Tsitsipas defied the bookies odds again in the quarter-finals to upset the in-form Roberto Bautista Agut and reach the final four. There, he will rematch his conqueror from that Canadian final in Nadal.
Tsitsipas might just be what 21-year-old Alexander Zverev was billed as after the German won the ATP Tour Finals in December – the future of tennis, a tag that Zverev has carried around for a couple of years despite continuing to suffer early exits at the Slams.
That pattern continued this week in Melbourne, where Zverev suffered a lop-sided straight sets defeat to Milos Raonic in the fourth round. Whilst talented, Alexander might not be ready to challenge the big guns at the big events just yet. But Stefanos just might.
And Tsitsipas wasn’t the only fresh-faced racket-wielder to pull up trees over the past fortnight in Australia. Big-hitting American Frances Tiafoe celebrated his 21st birthday in style last Sunday beating Grigor Dimitrov to reach the quarters, having already dispatched Wimbledon runner-up Kevin Anderson earlier in the tournament.
Tiafoe would have been on course to meet Tsitsipas in Thursday’s semi-final, but fell to Nadal in the last eight. Still, he had a fantastic breakout tournament and becomes the youngest American to beat a top-five seed since Andy Roddick. Only Tsitsipas has been more revelatory.
Tsitsipas is the youngest Grand Slam semi-finalist since a 20-year-old Djokovic in 2007. Perhaps with he, Tiafoe, and maybe yet still Zverev, the seeds of a new dominant trio have been sown. It’ll certainly be interesting to see what they have each achieved by this time next year.
Maybe in twelve months’ time, bookmakers will be offering odds on a Tsitsipas v Tiafoe Australian Open final.