After dominating tennis for so long, Roger Federer thinks the sport’s Big Three could face their toughest challenge yet from a new generation in 2020.
Federer’s 2019 season ended with a semi-final loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas on Saturday at the ATP Finals, having seen Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal eliminated in the group stage of the tournament.
Tsitsipas – the 21-year-old Greek making his ATP Finals debut – is among the up-and-coming talents that appear ready to finally end the unprecedented era of dominance by the famed trio of veterans.
Other youngsters at the season-ending tournament include defending champion Alexander Zverev at 22 and US Open runner-up Daniil Medvedev at 23.
However, it’s not the first time 38-year-old Federer has heard about a talented crop of young players taking over.
“It’s the same question every year at the end of the year,” he said.
“But does it feel like this year might be the best year yet?
“Possibly … But then I look at the list of who finished world No.1, who has been world No.1 all these years, and it’s just crazy that it’s always one of us.
But we are not getting any younger. So chances increase not because we are getting worse but because they are getting better.’’
Nadal clinched his fifth year-end No.1 title this week, putting him level with Federer and Djokovic.
Since 2004, the only other player to finish the year atop the rankings was Andy Murray in 2016.
In addition, the Big Three have won the past 12 grand slam titles between them.
Until one of the youngsters ends that streak, any talk of a generation shift is premature.
“Definitely it’s that next step they need,” Federer said.
“The only issue is that it seems like me, Novak and Rafa are healthy, healthier than maybe in previous years, as well.”
Zverev, for his part, is convinced that the new guard is ready to compete for majors.
“I think next year will bring a new grand slam champion,” the German said after his loss to Dominic Thiem in the second semi-final at the O2 Arena.
“You know, it can be Daniil, it can be Stefanos, it can be Dominic. I’m in the mix, as well, I hope.
“We’ll see what next year brings, but I think for the young guys it’s going to be an exciting year.”