The ATP Finals, which wound to a close after a week of absorbing action and crowning of a brand new champion, has thrown up a trick question to the tennis world.
Is a change of guard silently in the works in the echelons of tennis?
Is the mantle of supremacy about to pass from the ‘Big Three’ to the next generation of superstars?
For the uninitiated, ‘Big Three’ is a sobriquet bestowed on Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, the three modern-day greats in the game.
While it’s too early to make any sweeping statements, the ATP Finals this year saw the first signs of what may be an emerging trend in the men’s game.
A trend so forceful and compelling that it could change notions around the tennis hierarchy as it stands currently.
In a rarity, the prestigious season-ender in London did not feature any of the ‘Big Three’ in the title showdown. What was even rarer was that it happened in two successive years.
True, Federer gave this year’s event a miss to afford himself enough time for an extended post-surgery rehabilitation process.
But Nadal and Djokovic had qualified for the event and had set foot at the O2 Arena as primary title contenders.
However, snapping at their heels in the quest for glory were four emerging stars who are tipped to vie for superstardom and greatness once the era of dominance of the ‘Big Three’ ends.
The event, as it unfolded, served as further affirmation that Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas are ready to take the next big leap to greatness and leave the ‘Big Three’ chasing shadows.
Tsitsipas, the defending champion, couldn’t progress to the last-four this year. But he lived up to his tag as one of the next ‘Big Three’ in men’s tennis.
Thiem and Medvedev, the eventual finalists, gave ample evidence of their rising stocks with well-crafted wins over Djokovic and Nadal in the semifinals.
Also, in winning his first major Tour Finals title, Medvedev became only the fourth player in the game’s history to beat the top three in current rankings in a single tournament.
What stood out in their wins over Djokovic and Nadal was that they weren’t overawed by their opponents and simply played to their strengths.
Ahead of the championship tie, Medvedev said that he and Thiem making the title round was in itself a statement that they are ready to emerge from the shadows of the ‘Big Three’ and script their own success stories.
They hold no pretense on where they stand in the men’s game and are poised to set a new order of dominance and greatness.
That being said, the ‘Big Three’ era is still not over.
Expect more knife-edged battles before the new order is entrenched and the old guard finally yields ground to the new.