Many have wondered if 2021 will be the right year for the definitive changing of the guard at the top of men's tennis. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have won 57 Grand Slams in total, but in the last twelve months there has been a narrowing of the margin between the Big 3 and the Next Gen even in the most important tournaments.
At the US Open 2020, thanks to the absence of Federer and Nadal and the sensational disqualification of Nole, Dominic Thiem became the first player born in the 90s to win a Grand Slam title. Having worked with the likes of Pete Sampras and Roger Federer, Paul Annacone knows exactly what it takes to beat the best.
The American coach was instrumental in the rebirth of King Roger, leading him to the conquest of Wimbledon in 2012. Speaking on the Tennis Channel, the American illustrated how the longer format of the Grand Slams makes it even more difficult to trip against the first heads of series.
Annacone has a fair bit of insight on what makes top players tick
"It takes a little bit more in a Major to get past them (Big 3)," Paul Annacone said. "They usually figure out ways to get through matches and I think for the men’s side when it is three out of five sets, I know really well talking to Roger Federer when I coached him and when I coached Pete Sampras, they both feel like three out of five sets, I’m gonna figure it out."
Paul Annacone then cited Novak Djokovic’s match against Dominic Thiem in the 2020 Australian Open final to reinforce his point. Despite his physical issues though, Djokovic staged a remarkable comeback to take home a record 8th Australian Open title.
Annacone highlighted that the best-of-five format makes it very difficult for the less experienced players to sustain their quality against the 'Big 3' "You saw in Australia, 2 sets to 1 up against Novak Djokovic, and we saw Novak looked like he was punch-drunk for a little while as Thiem was starting to play the big tennis," Annacone continued.
"Novak did what Novak does, which is what all great players do. So when you are one of the up and comers trying to get past them that extra set necessary in that huge moment, means a lot." It’s not going to be long before the 8-time Australian Open champion leaves for Australia.
Prior to the Australian Open 2021, the Serb is going to be headlining the event in Adelaide. He is also going to lead Serbia at the ATP Cup, who are the defending champions. As the Serb has enjoyed one of the most successful spells of his career in Melbourne, he’ll certainly be considered the favorite to go the distance at the Australian Open 2021.