Perhaps in the Marvel Multiverse there will be a planet Earth where the super heroes will be Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas, the villains with the role of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
The brutal reality is that in our reality the now former Next Gen are unable to compete against the Big Three in the Slams finals: the latest hard tennis lesson given by Nole to Medvedev in the Australian Open 2021 final is the latest example.
Daniil played on par with Djokovic only in the first set and surrendered too easily to the Serbian overwhelming power, a 3-0 that leaves a trail for the future. Dominic Thiem, after the victory of the US Open, arrived without facing the Big Three, seems to have dropped considerably.
Out in the quarters at Roland Garros 2020, eliminated by Grigor Dimitrov in melbourne, after having risked being eliminated by Nick Kyrgios as well. Stefanos Tsitsipas seems to have stopped his growth two years ago, winning over Federer at the Australian Open and winning the ATP Finals.
Here in Melbourne he played a great match against Rafael Nadal, but in the semifinals he quietly surrendered to Medvedev. Zverev seemed to be able to do something better, but the German is also facing a very difficult period out of the court, which is probably also affecting his performance on the court.
The futility of the (former) Next Gen compared to the Big Three
The problem for these four young stars is that the years pass, the Slam victories do not arrive (remember that in New York 2020 Thiem won without facing the Big Three, without the disqualification of Djokovic and the absence of Nadal and Federer, we will talk about another finale) and the Big Three seem unattainable, protected by an unplayable aura.
A few years ago there was talk of future stars such as Grigor Dimitrov, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic, who ended up in limbo, overshadowed by the immense power of Federer, Djokovic and Nadal, who left only the crumbs to their opponents.
The main problem is not athletic and perhaps not even technical: it is a mental lability that is plaguing many generations of tennis players, now forced into cumbersome confrontations with the long shadows of the Big Three, which stretch across the past, present and future.
Three unbeatable superheroes. Three superstars like Iron Man, Captain America and Thor. Their most successful heralds were Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray, who, to date, have a career that the (former) Next Gen can only still dream of.
And then, in addition to the years that pass, a new class of young Next Gens is emerging behind them, like Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcarez, ready to wipe out Tsitsipas, Thiem, Zverev and Medvedev at the first sign of weakness.
These four and still young players will inevitably win Grand Slams when the Big Three are too old to compete and retire. But this is a fact that will depend on the will of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, not so much on the skills of Thiem, Tsitsipas, Medvedev and Thiem.
And the Gods of tennis know how urgent the ATP Tour's need to find a young planetary star is like the WTA Tour did with Naomi Osaka.