Will Daniil Medvedev be able to topple the 'Big Three' dominance?
Even though Rafael Nadal managed to win his 19th Grand Slam at US Open's Flushing Meadows a few months back, a new leader of the chasing pack has emerged.
Agreed that the ‘Big Three’ of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have now shared the last 12 Grand Slams among them. Agreed that there is no active Grand Slam winner under the age of 30.
But one youngster has stepped up off late, and stepped up how! Staring a straight sets defeat in the 2019 US Open final against Nadal in the face, Russian tennis sensation, Daniil Medvedev, flipped the match on its head.
From two sets and a break down he rallied and forced a fifth set against the man who holds the second most Grand Slam titles in history. It wasn’t enough, but it was close.
Daniil Medvedev is an incredibly smart tennis player. While some of his younger colleagues can’t step back to view the wider picture, he sees the game perfectly.
While the ‘Big Three’ continue to dominate the Grand Slam scene, Medvedev’s emergence has given genuine hope that he could be the first youngster to truly step up and win a major.
It’s been three years since someone other than Federer, Nadal or Djokovic, last won a Grand Slam. In truth, no one else has ever really come close. In that spell, only two players have even won a set in the final.
Dominic Thiem put all of his resources into getting one against Rafael Nadal at the French Open before running out of steam. Similarly, Marin Cilic made a decent fist of it against Roger Federer in the 2018 Australian Open before fading away in the fifth.
And now, Medvedev has stretched one of the trio to the greatest extent.
Since the rise of Grigor Dimitrov or 'Baby Fed' as he was called in the 2013-2014 season, the tennis world has had its sights set on the ‘next big thing’: someone, or a group of players that will take the reins from Federer, Nadal and Djokovic.
There have been a lot of players who have been dubbed to take on the mantle in men's tennis: there was Nick Kyrgios, the fiery Australian, with an explosive forehand and a penchant for theatrics.
He was followed by Dominic Thiem, Borna Coric and Alexander Zverev. Zverev was one of the exceptions and possessed a far superior mental game than his predecessors.
The latest generation, Generation Tsitsipas, mainly composed of players like Stefanos Tsitsipas, Denis Shapovalov and Hyeon Chung, arrived, after the initial edition of the NextGen finals. There was even a serious discussion about the possibility of no one being able to succeed the Big 3.
But, it seems that a dark horse has truly emerged now. While the world was making all the noise trying to tout this player or that player as the ‘next big thing’, 23-year old Daniil Medvedev has been working hard.
He has that intense quality about him: it is very easy to notice. He is not some once-in-a-generation talent like Federer or Sampras or a supernatural physical specimen like Djokovic or Nadal: all he does is giving the next shot his all.
And that is what makes him a rather persistent opponent. He will chase every ball down like his life depends upon it and hit it back to you.
Medvedev clearly enjoys his game, but the fact that he can play like a robot on the court adds a lot of edge to his whole package.
His mental game is head and shoulders above his peers, and that has made him a very grave threat across the tour. While mental strength is an important aspect of a player’s repertoire, it is not the only thing that propels him forward.
There is a certain amount of tactical acumen that he possesses, which has been made very clear by his ability to turn a lot of shots into winners. His drop shot is a thing of beauty. His ability to mix up his shots seems to be on another level altogether.
Every player who has been called the future of tennis has had a meteoric rise, but perhaps this time it might turn out to be different, for now, we have the power of hindsight. Daniil Medvedev has almost all the ingredients for greatness, and this year can safely be called the year of Medvedev.
We don’t know what 2020 holds for the 23-year-old from Russia, but good things seem to be on the horizon.
He has all the ingredients to cook up a spicy gravy for the 'Big Three', but if he has the longevity and temperament to pull through thick and thin, is too early to tell.
Most definitely, Daniil Medvedev is the closest specimen that has come to topple the dominance of tennis' iconic 'Big Three'.