Alongside Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have been the most consistent players in the last 11 years or so, competing for the biggest titles and standing above all of their rivals regardless of the tournament and the surface.
Federer and Djokovic have been the best players on hard, grass and indoor surfaces for more than 10 years now and one of the most challenging tasks in tennis has been to beat them in the last two matches of any of the ATP events.
Rafael Nadal, David Nalbandian and Andy Murray were the only players to achieve that before the last week and there's a new player on that special list after the ATP Finals, with the 21-year-old Alexander Zverev beating both Federer and Djokovic en route to his 10th and the biggest ATP crown in a career so far.
Alexander lost to Novak in the round robin stage but he found the way to pass that stage and prevail against Roger in the semis to set up another meeting with Novak, playing much better this time to score a 6-4 6-3 triumph and become only the eighth U21 ATP Finals champion, the first since the Serb in 2008! Thus, Alexander has become the first player since Andre Agassi in 1990 who toppled two top seeds in the semis and final and only the fourth who scored wins against Roger and Novak in the semis and final after the players we already mentioned.
The first player who managed to beat Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the last matches of the tournament was Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros 2007, facing the toughest possible draw en route to his third crown in Paris. In the semis, Rafa took down Novak 7-5 6-4 6-2 and he overpowered Roger 6-3 4-6 6-3 6-4 to wrap up the title and continue his unbeaten run at the second Grand Slam of the season.
The Spaniard needed almost six hours to bring these two matches home but he confirmed his status of the best clay-courter in the world once again to grab the third Grand Slam title at the age of 21. Later that season, David Nalbandian had a memorable run at Madrid Masters, ousting Novak Djokovic 6-4 7-6 to set up the final clash with Roger that he won 1-6 6-3 6-3, overcoming a slow start to dominate in the rest of the match and pick up his maiden Masters 1000 trophy.
Rafael Nadal was the main protagonist of this story in 2008 as well, winning Hamburg Masters after a thrilling wins over Novak and Roger that took almost six hours to be completed! In the semis, Rafa overpowered Novak 7-5 2-6 6-2 in three hours and three minutes and he had to work hard against Roger as well before claiming a 7-5 6-7 6-3 win that earned the second ATP title for him after having to beat the biggest rivals in the latter stages.
Interestingly, Nadal repeated this achievement a few weeks later at Roland Garros as well and this was the last time he defeated Roger and Novak in the semis and final despite the fact he played against them numerous times in the next 10 years.
Djokovic pushed him to the limits in the semi-final but Rafa prevailed in three sets before securing one of his most impressive wins against Roger in the title match, losing just four games to lift the fourth straight Roland Garros crown and enter the record books.
Four years after Rafa, Andy Murray added his name to our list following his glorious run at the London Olympics, edging Novak Djokovic 7-5 7-5 in the semis before achieving Olympic glory with a commanding 6-2 6-1 6-4 win over tired Roger Federer in the gold medal match.
Roger needed four and a half hours to overpower Juan Martin del Potro 19-17 in the third set and he had nothing left in the tank for Murray clash. It was the mission impossible for everyone on the Tour to lift an ATP title over Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the last two matches before Zverev finally accomplished that task in London last week, adding more fuel to his already impressive campaign and joining Nadal, Nalbandian and Murray on that special list that will hardly get bigger in the next couple of years.
Four players who have defeated Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the last two matches en route to the ATP title:
Rafael Nadal (2007 Roland Garros, 2008 Hamburg, 2008 Roland Garros)
David Nalbandian (2007 Madrid)
Andy Murray (2012 Olympics)
Alexander Zverev (2018 ATP Finals)