The Big 3 have been the benchmark of the men's circuit for fifteen years now. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have written unforgettable pages of tennis history, breaking virtually every record that existed before their arrival.
After the Serbian star's triumph at Wimbledon last Sunday, these three legends are now paired at 20 Slams each. The number 1 in the world made a big splash in the first part of 2021, having pocketed all three Grand Slams and nurturing the dream of creating a 'Calendar Golden Slam' that would be sensational.
The 34-year-old from Belgrade has decided to participate in the Tokyo Olympics too, having always wanted to win the gold medal for his Serbia. The situation relating to Roger and Rafa is more complicated: the Swiss seems to be on the avenue of sunset at the threshold of 40 years, while the Spaniard has taken a two-month break after the semifinal lost at Roland Garros.
In a long interview with the Times of India magazine, Mahesh Bhupathi illustrated the significance of having played in the same era as three of the best athletes ever.
The Big 3 have had a mutually beneficial relationship
"(Novak Djokovic is) Arguably the toughest of the three mentally when it comes to dealing with big match moments," Mahesh Bhupathi wrote.
"I have seen him beat Roger Federer twice at Grand Slam events from match points down. He already has most of the records locked up. Most weeks at No 1, most prize-money won," Bhupathi said. "However, Novak will always rank three in the popularity context.
That’s not because he’s (Novak Djokovic) not a good guy," the Indian added. "It’s because he has been a street-fighter when it comes to digging out matches from the start of his career and has since then developed a love-hate relationship with tennis fans."
Mahesh Bhupathi further claimed that the Big 3 (Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic) have had a mutually beneficial relationship, as they have forced each other to raise their game. "There is no doubt these three have pushed each other to become better players and take tennis to a level we would struggle to consistently see again," Bhupathi said.
"I personally would never pick out one of them. This past weekend as Novak tied Roger and Rafa at 20 Grand Slam titles I once again felt blessed to have been treated to these three rivalries." Several top names in the world of tennis would be missing in action at Tokyo Olympics 2021 but the quadrennial showpiece, postponed from last year, would still see a galaxy of stars including men’s and women’s World No.1s Novak Djokovic and Ashleigh Barty.