Big 3 reign continues as Djokovic defeats Thiem at Australian Open

Novak Djokovic celebrates a win at the 2019 U.S. Open.
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Ricky Dimon

Tennis · 2 years ago

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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

When will the reign of the Big 3 end in men’s tennis?

That is the question. It has always been the question. And it is still the question following Sunday’s Australian Open final.

Dominic Thiem came close to toppling Novak Djokovic, but close is not doing him–or any of the other challengers–much good at this point. Djokovic survived a stern test from the underdog Austrian to triumph 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 for his eighth Australian Open title, 17th Grand Slam title overall, and the Big 3’s 13th slam triumph in a row.

Reign men

That’s right; Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer have won the last 13 of these things.

But it has not always been easy. Daniil Medvedev pushed Nadal to five sets in last year’s U.S. Open final. Thiem took a set off Nadal even on the Spaniard’s stomping grounds of Roland Garros last spring. The 26-year-old came even closer on Sunday in Melbourne, where he led Djokovic two sets to one and had the world No. 2 looking completely out of gas. Nonetheless, Djokovic found another gear when it mattered most and completed his comeback after three hours and 59 minutes.

How much longer?

How much longer can the Big 3 go? Federer is 38 years old; Nadal is 33; Djokovic is 32. Although time is not on their side, they are also showing no sings of slowing down–Djokovic and Nadal, especially. The Serb has won five of the last seven majors by himself, with Nadal taking the other two. The trio is only five slam triumphs away from its longest-ever streak, an 18-slam stretch from the 2005 French Open through 2009 Wimbledon (17 of those 18 were won by Federer and Nadal alone).

The younger generation surely cannot wait to see those goes retire, but at the same time Thiem wants his first slam victory to come during this current era.

“These guys brought tennis to a complete new level,” said the world No. 5, doubling down on his statement during the trophy ceremony that he was glad to play in the Big 3 era of tennis. “They also brought me probably to a much better level. “Of course, it would be or it was easier for sure in a different era to win big titles; that’s 100 percent. But I’m happy I can compete with these guys on the best level. I really hope also that I win my maiden slam when they’re still around because it just counts more.”

At this point, though, Thiem and company should simply hope to win one at all. Who cares about they do it?

Their next chance comes at the French Open, which is the toughest location of all. Nadal has won 12 of the last 15 at Roland Garros. Since 2005, only non-Big 3 member has prevailed there. That would be Stan Wawrinka, who is 34 years old and a three-time Grand Slam champion. He certainly isn’t part of the younger generation trying so desperately to break through.

Nadal is a -110 favorite to get the job done in Paris, while Djokovic is a +300 second choice and Thiem is not far behind at +400. Our free tennis expert picks will have you covered for the French Open and all of the other big tournaments in 2020.

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