It is quite clear that the Big Three, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic are not at the same level as they once were.
While still ranked one, two, and three in the world, each are starting to show slight signs of decline, especially with thirty-eight year old Federer. Over the past few years, all three of these superstars have been injured, and have taken a toll on their bodies and their games.
That being said, the next generation of tennis stars are on their way up to the top:
Dominic Thiem: The 26 year old clay court specialist is currently ranked number four in the world. Ever since bursting into relevance in 2016 after defeating top players such as Rafael Nadal in Buenos Aires and David Ferrer in Rio de Janeiro, Thiem has never been ranked lower than nineteenth in the world.
2019 was his biggest year yet, taking home 5 titles, including at Indian Wells. He capped off this year with an impressive showing in the Nitto ATP Finals, falling in the finals to champion Stefanos Tsitsipas in a three set tiebreaker. Thiem is one of the best in the world in pressure situations, winning 83.3% of deciding sets and converting on 41% of break point attempts. These stats combined with a few others gives him the third best Under Pressure Rating, at an extremely high 242.8 points. He features a dominant one-handed backhand that rivals fellow top player Roger Federer.
Dominic Thiem should be entering his prime this year. Look for another big leap from him, possibly into the top three this year.
Daniil Medvedev: Currently at number 5 in the world, Daniil Medvedev had a massive 2019. In a 35 match streak across 6 tournaments, Medvedev went an amazing 32-3, only losing to Rafael Nadal twice and Nick Kyrgios once. One of Medvedev’s losses came at the finals of the US Open, in an instant classic match. It went the distance, and Medvedev fell in the 5th set 6-4. He proved in that match that he had what it takes to stand with and even beat the world’s greatest tennis players.
During this streak, he played and beat some of the world’s premier talent, such as Fabio Fognini, Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem, 3 time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka, and even future hall of famer Novak Djokovic. Similarly to Dominic Thiem, Medvedev is great when converting break points, and exceptional when returning second serves.
However, he has a fiery temper and a shaky, but powerful serve. In the right situation, an opponent can use these traits to his advantage.
If Medvedev can work out these kinks in his game, he will most definitely become a very scary opponent and a multiple time Grand Slam winner. The twenty-three year old has a very successful future looming.
Stefanos Tsitsipas: The 2019 ATP Finals champion finally broke out. Throughout the 2018 season, glimpses were caught of Tsitsipas’ superstar potential, showing several deep runs in tournaments with championships at the Next Gen ATP Finals and Stockholm.
Tsitsipas had a similar but improved 2019 season, with championships at Marseille, Estoril, and the ATP Finals. The wins that he has compiled include Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic.
He features a strong and accurate serve, being top thirty in 1st serve percentage and 2nd serve points won, and top 15 in percentage of 1st serve points won and percentage of service games won, along with over seven aces per game. Along with his serve, Tsitsipas has big groundstrokes, and moves around the court quite well.
He has already developed a fiery rivalry with another up and coming superstar, Daniil Medvedev. Future matchups between these two will be very interesting to watch.
For Stefanos Tsitsipas, he has the extremely high potential needed to be an all-time great by the end of his career.
Alexander Zverev: At twenty-two years old, Alexander Zverev has been a force to be reckoned with on the ATP Tour for three years now. In 2017, he broke out featuring five tournament wins and his career high at number three in the world. He had a very down year this year, finishing at number seven in the world with only one tournament win at Geneva. He started to pull it together at the end of the year, with good runs in the China Open and the Shanghai Masters.
In 2018, Zverev had a big year, capping it off with a Nitto ATP Finals win. The 6’6″ star features a very big and accurate serve and a powerful forehand. He is best when he can pressure his opponents to the point where he plays offense the entire match. However, his strength comes at a price. He is not great with recovery, and can easily be run side to side or up and down. He also struggles when it comes to his endurance.
Zverev is known as a player who will make it through the Round of 32 and then losing in the next round or the round after. A prime example of this is the 2019 French Open. Zverev played a five set match against John Millman in the first round, and a five set match against Dusan Lajovic in the Round of 32. After an almost three hour match against Fabio Fognini in the Round of 16, Zverev was eliminated by Novak Djokovic easily in three sets.
He is still very young, so these issues will work themselves out with time and more conditioning. Alexander Zverev will continue to build on his game, and will become a Grand Slam champion.
Denis Shapovalov: The youngest of these up and coming stars, Denis Shapovalov has unlimited potential. At twenty years old, he has already broken out on the tour with a good 2019 season. He captured his first career title this fall at Stockholm, however he played quite weak opponents. Even though Stockholm was the only tournament he has won, Shapovalov made it to the finals of the Paris Masters, and the Miami Open Semifinals.
As a smaller player, at 6’1″ and 165 pounds, he runs around the court very well. Similarly to Novak Djokovic, Shapovalov hits back many shots with consistency. The only problem he has with returning is when he isn’t serving, something that can get much better over time since he is so young. His backhand is reminiscent of Roger Federer’s, a one-handed backhand that is utilized often to finish points or to set up advantageous circumstances for himself. He also benefits a lot from his coach, Mikhail Youzhny, who has so much experience at the professional level, being a former top ten player in the world.
I think that Denis Shapovalov has the ability to be be a prominent player for many years to come.
These five players are all incredible young talents. I expect all of them to be future greats, and Grand Slam champions – but most importantly, the replacements for the legendary Big Three atop the tennis world.