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Coming in 2021: The Next-Gen Stars to Replace Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic


As an eventful 2020 draws to a close, it’s time to set sights on the new tennis season with a fervent hope that it won’t fall prey to COVID in quite the manner as this season did.

A large part of looking forward to a new tennis season involves an educated assessment of the players who one thinks will rule the roost in the coming year.

Expect Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev to push the ‘Big Three’

While the 2020 season was cut woefully short by the pandemic, the men’s Tour did provide enough thrilling, edge-of-the-seat moments from matches involving stalwarts against the next line of superstars.

As the new season dawns on the tennis world, one suspects a more intense battle by the new order in the men’s game to push the ‘Big Three’ – the combined moniker for Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic – out of the spotlight.

A start, one might dare say, has already been made. While Federer missed a bulk of the tennis action this season owing to a knee problem and rehabilitation post surgery thereafter, Nadal and Djokovic faced a pushback in their bid to reaffirm their status as stalwarts in the men’s circuit.

New order taking shape to replace Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic

Not that thee big three’s stature in the men’s game needs affirmation, but the pushback pointed to the fact that there’s a new line of stars who are willing to stand up to them and challenge their place in tennis hierarchy.

One in this new crop of superstars is reigning US Open champion Dominic Thiem. Having clinched his maiden Grand Slam title at the Flushing Meadows, the Austrian sent his stocks soaring by beating Nadal and Djokovic at the ATP Finals in London.

As the new season arrives, expect Thiem to pick up more wins on the Tour and entrench his position in the men’s order. Winning the Australian Open, the year’s first Major, would be a good way to start for the Austrian.

Tennis – ATP Finals – The O2, London, Britain – November 17, 2020 Spain’s Rafael Nadal reacts after losing his group stage match against Austria’s Dominic Thiem REUTERS/Toby Melville

Thiem and Medvedev hogged the spotlight in the 2020 tennis season

Rising Russian star Daniil Medvedev also announced himself as a contender for the next ‘Big Three’, as he locked horns with the big boys and made them bite the dust.

In what was easily his breakthrough season, the big Russian won the Rolex Paris Masters and followed up his maiden title at the ATP Finals. In the process of clinching his first London Masters trophy, Medvedev became only the fourth player in tennis history to beat the Top-3 players (Djokovic, Nadal and Thiem) at the same event.

Before the final of the season-ender, the Russian was quoted as saying that the recent run of results was, perhaps, a pointer to the levelling of the playing field, with the likes of himself and Thiem starting to assert themselves on the ‘Big Three’.

Just to add more context to the topic at hand, Federer lost to Thiem at the Indian Wells Masters in 2019. So as he marches into the new season, expect Medvedev to walk his talk and break the ‘Big Three’ s hold on Grand Slams.

Tennis – ATP Finals – The O2, London, Britain – November 21, 2020 Serbia’s Novak Djokovic reacts during his semi-final match against Austria’s Dominic Thiem REUTERS/Toby Melville

Tsitsipas, Diego and Rublev also jostling for supremacy in men’s tennis

Albeit to a lesser extent, the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev and Diego Schwartzman also threatened to challenge the established order in the men’s game.

Schwartzman, the Argentine pocket dynamo, beat Nadal on clay at the Italian Open in Rome this year.

While the 2020 season didn’t go particularly well for Tsitsipas, the long-haired Greek stunned Nadal at the Mutua Madrid Open in 2019. Djokovic, too, narrowly survived a defeat by Thiem at the event that year.

Read More: Indian Wells 2021 Unlikely to Take Place as ATP Schedules Other Event

Later in 2019, Tsitsipas went on to clinch the ATP Finals title, beating Thiem, rising German Alexander Zverev and Federer along the way. Zverev, too, has made no secret of his wish to beat the ‘Big Three’ in Grand Slams. 

Rublev had a fabulous 2020, winning five titles, the most on this calendar and even making the ATP Finals draw for the first time. Federer had predicted big things for the Russian this year, and he largely lived up to his billing.

Tennis – ATP 500 – Erste Bank Open – Wiener Stadthalle, Vienna, Austria – November 1, 2020 Russia’s Andrey Rublev celebrates winning the final against Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

As the ATP reloads for the new season, the new line would be chomping at the bit to go against the stalwarts again and shake them off-perch.


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