Medvedev and Thiem not only reached the end of the tournament: the two beat both Djokovic and Nadal in a field in which until now they have always been victors. The New Guard is on the prowl and this time it seems they are going for everything.
Daniil Medvedev conquered in the O2 Arena from the British capital the title of the London Masters, the most prestigious event in the world of tennis after the Grand Slam. It was the most important celebration for the Russian and one that could mark a before and after in his career. Although his consecration as “Teacher” could also mean an important change in the order of the circuit and mark the beginning of the end of the “Era of the Big 3” and the great dominance that for more than 15 years Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Is it time for the changing of the guard?
The final in London – which lowered the curtain on an atypical season, which was suspended for almost six months and suffered changes and tournament cancellations due to the coronavirus pandemic – faced two players who have been asking for a clue for years: Medvedev, from 24 years and fourth of the world ranking, and Dominic Thiem, 27 and number three in the world. The two reached the definition after falling in the semis to the top favorites of the tournament, Djokovic and Nadal, in games in which they “disrespected” two living legends of this sport.
Medvedev celebrated his first victory against Nadal, world number two, whom he beat 3-6, 7-6 (7-4) and 6-3 in two hours and 35 minutes of play. Thiem defeated the ranking leader and five-time Masters champion, Djokovic, 7-5, 6-7 (10-12) and 7-6 (7-5) in a true two-hour and 54-minute battle.
Those triumphs were perhaps a reminder that the first step for the reign of a new generation had finally been taken. Not only because of the final result of those two semis, but also because of the way in which the finalists outperformed tennis, physically and mentally on the court two rivals who fought them and gave them nothing.
The Russian – owner of nine titles and champion a few days ago at the Paris Masters – took advantage of a Nadal who suffered physical exhaustion (a vital aspect of his game) and who again ran out of chances to add the only big trophy that it lacks. And the Austrian – winner of 17 crowns, including this year’s US Open – beat Djokovic in a battle of mental stamina, the kind that the Serb rarely loses.
Medvedev also had the pleasure of beating him in the round robin – which he beat undefeatedly – by a clear 6-3 and 6-3 to Nole, to leave the Serbian in a complicated scenario and force him to seek the classification to semis on the last date. And Thiem, in turn, defeated Nadal at the crossroads in his zone by 7-6 (9-7) and 7-6 (7-4).
It is true that several times in recent years there has been speculation that the Age of the Big 3 had come to an end. But Federer, Nadal or Djokovic always appeared to deny it and extend that hegemony that began more than 15 years ago, with the first consecration of the Swiss in a Grand Slam, at Wimbledon 2003.
Since then, these three players have conquered 57 of the 69 Grand Slam that were disputed and monopolized the podium of the world ranking, in which the seasons 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2018 and 2019 ended together.
It is also true that the “Masters Tournament” has been the scene of unexpected coronations in recent years. The last triumph of some of those three great stars was in 2015, when Djokovic lifted his fifth trophy. In 2016 it was won by Andy Murray, the only one who managed to steal number one from that trio for a while since Federer first rose to the top in February 2004. And then he was conquered by Grigor Dimitrov, Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and, finally, Medvedev.
But the level of tennis and the quality of the triumphs that Medvedev and Thiem achieved against the two best in the ranking in this edition suggest that history could be another from now on.
It is also worth remembering that Federer was absent in this edition after having closed his season during the stop after having his right knee operated. And although from his surroundings they assure that the recovery is going very well and that he could play again in early 2021 -in Australia they await him with open arms-, the concrete thing is that the Swiss does not yet have a confirmed date of return.
Although in 2020 only three of the four Grand Slam were played -Wimbledon was canceled due to the global health crisis- and the US Open that Thiem won after the resumption of the circuit was totally atypical (Nadal and Federer did not play and Djokovic was disqualified in round of 16), there is a statistic that gives strength to that idea that the tennis players of the new generations are ready to take command.
If you look at the five major titles on the calendar – the four Grand Slams and the Masters – the Big 3 was even this season with the rest of the players. Djokovic won Australia, before suspension, and Nadal conquered Roland Garros. Meanwhile, Thiem was established in New York and Medvedev stayed with the ATP Finals.
The last time Federer, Nadal and Djokovic had collectively won more important trophies than the rest was in 2016, when the Serb was crowned in Melbourne and Paris; Murray conquered Wimbledon and the Masters and Stan Wawrinka, the US Open.
Then, just in case, it will be necessary to mark November 22, 2020 on the calendar. Because perhaps the consecration of Medvedev this Sunday in London has marked the beginning of the end of a historical era of tennis, that of the reign of the Big 3. Has it come time for the New Guard?