Boris Becker believes it’s only a matter of time before ATP’s NextGen players begin surpassing the world’s current Big Three – naming fellow German Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem as two of the five who are to watch in 2020 and beyond.
The Big Three of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer dominated tennis once again in 2019, finishing the year as the world’s three best players.
Between Nadal and Djokovic, they shared the year’s four Grand Slams but Becker has downplayed fears that the sport’s significance will wane once they all retire, albeit at different stages in their never-ending quest for more success.
All-time Grand Slam leaders:
#1 Roger Federer – 20 (2003-2018)
#2 Rafael Nadal – 19 (2005-present)
#3 Novak Djokovic – 16 (2008-present)
As quoted by Tennis365.com, he said: “Whenever an era of champions ends, we think it will be the end of tennis, but then a new generation comes along.
I was part of it when we ended, it was the turn of [Andre] Agassi and [Pete] Sampras. Now we are thinking this is going to end with [Federer, Nadal and Djokovic] but it is never going to end.
We have fantastic young, exciting players who are coming into their own and they will be everything in the future.”
After years of hype and expectation, time for young stars to step up?
Plenty has been said in recent years about the emerging ATP stars, who have shone at times but equally struggled during pivotal moments in big tournaments too. Nonetheless, many believe this year’s Nitto Finals competition proved the gap is lessening between the big three and their successors.
Stefanos Tsitsipas beat French Open runner-up Dominic Thiem to win last month’s tournament and Becker highlighted the Austrian as one of the five he’s expecting to take over at some point in the not-too-distant future.
He mentioned Zverev – who hasn’t kicked on as expected after breaking through in 2015 – as well as Australian Alex de Minaur and Canadian Denis Shapovalov (both 20).
Also, he feels the controversial figure of Nick Kyrgios (24) cannot be written off either, despite failing to improve on quarter-final finishes in at Wimbledon in 2014 and Australian Open the following year.
“Zverev, of course, will be there contending, Dominic Thiem as well. There is de Minaur and Shapovalov, who is very good, and I also want to remember Kyrgios, who has big potential and is box office when right.”
It’ll be interesting to see how they all fare over the upcoming 2020 season, though those five and much more are exciting prospects eager to silence the notion that the big three are still just too good for them when it matters most.
H/T: The Weekend Australian for original quotes