Since 2004, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have ruled the men's tennis. Over those 16 years, only six other players have won a Major crown beside them, with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic pushing each other to the limits in the battle for the greatest player of all time.
Only the players from the 'big 4' have claimed the year-end no. 1 honor after 2003, forcing their opponents to raise the level if they wanted to challenge them for the most notable titles and records. The experienced Frenchman Gilles Simon had the opportunity to compete against Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray no less than 48 times, scoring just six triumphs, at least one against each of them, and suffering 42 defeats.
Writing a blog on the ATP site, Simon said it is natural for every player to chase the biggest trophies, although it is mighty tough to get there with the 'big 4' around.
Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have won the last 13 Majors since 2017, making no mistakes on the most prominent stage and writing new pages of tennis history in Melbourne, Paris, London and New York.
Repeating the well-known fact, Simon reminded that his generation couldn't achieve much against dominant rivals who were just too good for all of them, describing it as a nightmare.
Gilles has played 12 times against Novak Djokovic so far, prevailing over the Serb in their first encounter in Marseille 2008 before the Serb took charge to rattle off 11 straight triumphs over the Frenchman. Their most famous duel came in Melbourne 2016 when Gilles gave his 120% to stay in touch with a mighty opponent, keeping Novak on the court for more than four and a half hours before losing in five sets.
Like Novak, Gilles grabbed the win in the first encounter versus Andy Murray, losing ground after that to suffer 16 defeats from 18 matches against the Briton. Simon prevailed in that epic clash in Madrid 2008, ousting Rafael Nadal in the semi-final before losing to Andy Murray a day later.
It was Simon's only success against the Spaniard who grabbed eight wins. In 2008, Gilles toppled Roger Federer twice with his incredible defense, making the best start of the rivalry with one of the greatest players of all time before the Swiss turned the tide, rattling off seven straight victories over the Frenchman, having to work hard to secure some of those.
"I'm 35 years old, and I have won 14 ATP Tour titles and reached world No. 6. For a long time, the biggest problem my generation faced was that the top four players - Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray - were too good. For someone like me, who was in the middle of these guys' careers, it was a nightmare."