We foolishly wrote about a potential Federer-Nadal final at Flushing Meadows yesterday, and unfortunately it looks like we jinxed the Swiss great as he suffered a shock exit of the US Open at the hands of Grigor Dimitrov.
It was a thriller in New York, as Federer (above) eventually lost in five sets to the unseeded Dimitrov. He will now face 23-year-old Daniil Medvedev, after the Russian managed to topple Federer’s fellow countryman Stan Wawrinka.
Third seed Federer, who lost to Australian John Millman in the round of 16 last year, has now been knocked out of the US Open by players ranked outside of the world’s top 50 for the second successive year – after previously having never lost to one at Flushing Meadows.
Rafael Nadal (below) is now the overwhelming favourite (1/3 outright with Betfred) and you would think it is his title to lose. It is a golden opportunity for the Spaniard to win his 19th major and narrow the gap on Federer in the race to be regarded as the greatest men’s player of all time. But as the last 24 hours have shown, anything can happen in a Grand Slam.
Nadal faces a tough test in the form of Diego Schwartzman for his quarter-final clash, and if he were to lose it would be the first time since Roland Garros in 2004 that Federer, Nadal nor Djokovic have made the semi-final of Grand Slam – what a remarkable stat.
That just goes to show how dominant these three men have been for the past 15 years. It also makes you think that when these three retire from the game, who is going to win the majors?
It doesn’t bear thinking about. We want to keep enjoying the greatness that these three bring to a tennis court while they’re still playing… but the time will come when they call it a day.
We hear the same names mentioned before every major – Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Nick Kyrgios – but they never seem to produce the goods in a Slam. To be fair to Thiem, he’s made the French Open final for the past two years, but no-one is beating Rafa on clay.
The ‘Next Gen’ do seem to struggle on the big stage. When Zverev managed to win the ATP Finals last November after beating Djokovic, it looked as though it would give him the platform to kick on and really challenge for a Slam. But a third-round exit at the Australian Open followed two months later, before a quarter-final appearance at Roland Garros and a shock first-round exit at SW19.
Stefanos Tsitsipas managed to reach the semi-finals in Melbourne, beating Roger Federer in the process. Once again, he hasn’t really kicked on from this, with five of his last seven tournaments ending in the first match (including the US Open). However, he has time on his side and will surely have Grand Slam success in the future.
Now, onto the enigma that is Nick Kyrgios. Wherever he goes, it seems controversy follows closely behind. I think that the Australian has all the tools to win a major. Explosive serve? Check. Big groundstrokes? Check. Good touch? Check. Volleys? Check. His problem, and it seems the problem for the majority of the ‘Next Gen’ players, is mental. When I watch Kyrgios, it always looks like he’s more bothered about playing a 360 twist and pivot through-the-legs forehand, when a conventional shot would be just fine. His argument would be that he’s trying to entertain, so each to their own I suppose.
It seems that the aforementioned Medvedev has a real shot of being the first ‘Next Gen’ player to claim a major, after the early exits of Federer and Djokovic. Dimitrov will pose a challenge, but should he get through that, his real test will be if he faces Nadal in the final, providing the Spaniard gets the best of Schwartzman.
One thing is for certain – we’ve been blessed with a golden era of tennis, and the tennis world after the ‘Big Three’ retire is an interesting prospect.