The dominance of the big three


Will anyone be able to stop the reign of the big three?

Bennett Carollo, Sports Editor

On Sunday September 8th, the 2019 US Open came to a close with the men’s final. This championship match pitted world number two and 19-time grand slam champion Rafael Nadal of Spain up against first-time finalist Daniil Medvedev, the 23-year-old Russian and fifth ranked player on the ATP Tour. Despite the high ranking of Medvedev, it would be an understatement to say that Nadal was a massive favorite. Simply put, Nadal and the other two all time greats who make up the prestigious big three in the men’s game, Roger Federer of Switzerland and Novak Djokovic of Serbia, are in a class of their own and have owned the grand slam tournaments over the last 15 years. Beginning with Federer’s 2004 Australian Open title, the big three have won 54 of the last 64 majors. Federer leads the way with 20 titles, and he is followed closely by Nadal with 19 and Djokovic with 16 on the all-time leader board. Despite the rising ages of these three men, with Djokovic being 32, Nadal 33, and Federer 38, they seem to only be getting stronger. In fact, they have combined to win the last 12 grand slams in a row.

Another factor contributing to Medvedev’s extreme underdog status in the US Open final was the noted failure of the next generation of male tennis players. These young up and comers, including Nick Kyrgios, Alex Zverev, and Stefanos Tsitsipas, have shown flashes of their raw ability, but they have failed to display the steadiness, grit, and consistency necessary to dethrone the three greatest players of all time. It was expected that Medvedev would continue this trend and lose soundly to the great Nadal. During the first two sets of the match, it appeared that it would play out exactly as anticipated. Nadal took a commanding two sets to none lead, winning 7-5 and 6-3. The commentators were ready to award Rafa the trophy already, noting that he had only once in his storied career lost a match when leading by two sets. However, it was here that Medvedev would start to show signs of the grit that many of his young peers have seemed to lack. The Russian battled through a challenging third set but refused to give up hope and pulled it out, 7-5. The intensity and quality of play in the match continued to rise as the fourth set wore on, with Medvedev impressively going shot for shot with Nadal. The admittedly pro-Nadal crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium erupted when Medvedev ripped a passing shot down the line off a Nadal serve to grab the fourth set, 6-4, and draw even. The fifth set was more of the same, as both players raised their game and the anticipation for a thrilling finish grew. However, things began to fall apart for Medvedev, as he blew a 40-0 lead in a service game and Nadal scored the first break of serve of the fifth set. Nadal broke again shortly after and the Russian looked decidedly finished. Amazingly, there was still fight left in him. With the help of some nervous serving from Rafa, Medvedev got one of the breaks back and got within 5-4 after being down 5-2. When he got a break point to bring the set back to a tie, it seemed that he was destined to win. However, it was not meant to be, as Nadal saved the breakpoint and blasted a booming serve before collapsing onto the court in joy. In the end, Medvedev was not able to pierce the armor of Nadal and the big three’s dominance, but he displayed that there is hope for the next generation and that the reign may be coming to an end.