A lurking knee injury, a global health crisis and a wayward tennis ball fired in frustration – that’s what it took to end one of the most remarkable streaks in tennis history at the 2020 US Open. Following Novak Djokovic's shock default for hitting a lineswomen, the 2020 US Open semifinals marked the first time since 2004 that neither of the “Big Three”, i.e. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, featured in the round of the last four at one of tennis’ biggest occasions. Back in 2004, three Argentinians (David Nalbandian, Gastón Gaudio and Guillermo Coria) and one Englishman (Tim Henman) had reached the semifinal of the French Open and little did we know that it marked the dawn of a new era in men’s professional tennis.
In the end, Dominic Thiem emerged victorious from the 2020 US Open, putting an end to a remarkable streak that saw Djokovic, Nadal and Federer win 13 consecutive Grand Slam titles between them, after Stan Wawrinka had become the last player to break through their dominance in 2016. Things quickly returned to "normal" after Thiem's maiden Grand Slam title, however, as Novak Djokovic came back to win the first three majors of 2021 before losing the US Open final to Daniil Medvedev. 2022 followed a similar script, with Rafael Nadal winning the first two majors of the year, before Novak Djokovic claimed his seventh Wimbledon title. Once more, the US Open turned out to be the chance for the next generation to make their mark. With Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic absent (for different reasons) and Rafael Nadal losing to an inspired Frances Tafoe in the round of 16, it was 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz who seized the moment to claim his first Grand Slam title. Alcaraz was only the third player to break the dominance of Nadal, Djokovic and Federer at the Grand Slams since 2016, with all three "upsets" coming at the US Open in consecutive years.
While Roger Federer's retirement a couple of weeks after Alcaraz' triumph marked the official end of the "Big Three" era, Djokovic and Nadal have no intention of passing the torch to the next generation yet. After his deportation from Australia in 2022, Novak Djokovic roared back to his 10th Australian Open title this year, bringing his total to a record-tying 22 major titles. As the following chart illustrates, the "Big Three" have now won 64 of the past 78 Grand Slam tournaments, with Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka the only other players to notch multiple (i.e. three) wins during the triumvirate’s decade-spanning reign over tennis’ most prestigious events.