Wimbledon 2019

Big 3 still in command

Novak Djokovic in action during a training session for the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, in London on June 29, 2019.
Novak Djokovic in action during a training session for the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, in London on June 29, 2019.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Federer, Djokovic, Nadal have the nous, skill to keep young guns at bay on grass

LONDON • They say it is high time the new generation start blazing a trail in men's tennis. Yet, as the All England Club opens its doors for another Wimbledon fortnight, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal still retain their vice-like grip on power.

Led by the swashbuckling Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, 20, a queue of brash young talents has formed, all trying to be the man to smash the triopoly and officially usher in a new era.

The trouble is that the top three, despite all being at an age when mere mortals begin winding down their careers, appear fitter and hungrier than ever to reach new milestones.

World No. 1 and defending champion Djokovic fell agonisingly short of holding all four Grand Slams for the second time, when he was blown off court by gusting winds and Dominic Thiem in the French Open semi-finals earlier this month.

But unlike last year, when he arrived at Wimbledon ranked outside the top 20 in a difficult period but silenced the doubters with a fourth title, the 32-year-old looks at the peak of his powers.

One more title here would take him level with the five of Swedish great Bjorn Borg and third on the all-time list for men's champions in the modern era. It would also leave the Serb four behind Federer's men's record of 20 Slams.

Federer, 37, is chasing his ninth title and looked razor-sharp last week, when he warmed up by winning the Halle grass-court title for the 10th time.

Then there is Nadal, 33. He last triumphed at Wimbledon in 2010 and, since then, has endured some bitter setbacks on the lawns.

But, after taking a 12th French Open title, the Spaniard seems highly motivated, and physically strong, as he targets a third French Open-Wimbledon double - a feat only Borg has achieved.

It is hard to see the trophy not in the hands of one of the Big Three on July 14. They have won the last 10 Grand Slams and only Andy Murray (twice) has managed to keep their hands off of it since Lleyton Hewitt in 2002.

Tsitsipas, with his aggressive all-court game, looks the most likely contender to shake things up while Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, 18, a semi-finalist at Queen's Club last week, has jumped the queue after a stunning rise from outside the top 100 at the start of the year.

Three-time Wimbledon winner John McEnroe said: "Tsitsipas is going to be a great champion and player. He's got everything that you could hope for. I think Felix, to me, he's going to be No. 1."

Throw in another Canadian, Denis Shapovalov, 20, along with the old Swiss warrior Stan Wawrinka and Austrian stylist Thiem, and an absorbing chapter of Wimbledon awaits.

The ending may be a familiar one though.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 30, 2019, with the headline 'Big 3 still in command'. Print Edition | Subscribe