The 140th edition of the US Open will be remembered mainly for the absence of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. It is the first time since 1999 that a Grand Slam tournament has been played without either of the legends present in the main draw.
Novak Djokovic is the big favorite to win the 18th Slam of his career. Pete Sampras joined Tim Henman for a chat on the ATP Champions Tour Legends Live and talked about what separates the ‘Big 3’ from the next-gen.
Sampras on the Big 3
“I think trying to be Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal is tough but I think it is a physical thing maybe you are not quite developed. I think a lot of these young kids are in awe of Roger and so they are just intimidated and physical it just maybe not quite physically strong to go up like play a 5 set against Novak or Rafa.
In my year it was more of serve and volley quick tennis and now these guys up and running for hours,” Pete Sampras said. The former World number 1 also revealed who can win Grand Slams outside the top 3: “I like Thiem, I think he can win a french.
Tsitsipas to me is a good athlete and he has got some weapons and competes hard. Zverev struggled a little bit last year but when he gets his game going and his confidence going I think he can win a major”. The Big Three monopolized the top spot in the ATP men's singles rankings from 2 February 2004 to 6 November 2016 and again from 21 August 2017 to the present, for a total of 802 weeks (equivalent to over 15 years) as of 24 August 2020.
Federer was ranked number 1 for a record 310 weeks, Djokovic, the current number 1, for 283 weeks, and Nadal for 209 weeks. Each player has occupied the top position at the end of the year five times. The Big Three have played each other in 145 matches, including 69 finals.
Of all the matches, 46 have been played at Grand Slam tournaments, including 22 finals. The first match between two players of the Big Three occurred in March 2004 at the Miami Masters, where Nadal defeated Federer. Federer and Djokovic first met in April 2006 at the Monte Carlo Masters.
Nadal and Djokovic first faced each other a month later at the 2006 French Open. This year’s US Open does not feature Nadal and Federer, so Djokovic would be expecting a heavy challenge from the next-gen.