Big Three (tennis)

The Big Three is a common nickname in tennis for Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.[2][3] Since the 2003 Australian Open, the trio have dominated men's singles, winning 61 of the past 76 (80%) Grand Slam titles up to the 2022 Australian Open (also reaching 68 Grand Slam finals during this period), with Nadal holding the all-time total titles record at 21, and Djokovic and Federer at 20 each. In majority of these finals, 52 finals out of 68 to be exact, the winner of first set won the Final. Collectively, they have won 12 US Open titles, 17 Australian Open titles, and 16 titles at both Wimbledon and the French Open. Djokovic and Federer have been ranked No. 1 for more than 300 weeks each, while Nadal has been ranked No. 1 for more than 200 weeks. Federer has won 5 consecutive Wimbledon and US Open titles, where as Nadal have won 5 consecutive French Open titles and Djokovic has won 3 consecutive Australian Open titles.

The Big Three
Prize moneyUS$ 414 million
Singles
Career record3303–690 (82.7%)[a]
Career titles281
Highest rankingNo. 1 (2 Feb 2004F, 18 Aug 2008N, 4 Jul 2011D)
Current rankingNo. 1 (21 March 2022D)[1]
Grand Slam singles results
Australian OpenW (2004F, 2006F, 2007F, 2008D, 2009N, 2010F, 2011D, 2012D, 2013D, 2015D, 2016D, 2017F, 2018F, 2019D, 2020D, 2021D, 2022N)
French OpenW (2005N, 2006N, 2007N, 2008N, 2009F, 2010N, 2011N, 2012N, 2013N, 2014N, 2016D, 2017N, 2018N, 2019N, 2020N, 2021D)
WimbledonW (2003F, 2004F, 2005F, 2006F, 2007F, 2008N, 2009F, 2010N, 2011D, 2012F, 2014D, 2015D, 2017F, 2018D, 2019D, 2021D)
US OpenW (2004F, 2005F, 2006F, 2007F, 2008F, 2010N, 2011D, 2013N, 2015D, 2017N, 2018D, 2019N)
Other tournaments
Tour FinalsW (2003F, 2004F, 2006F, 2007F, 2008D, 2010F, 2011F, 2012D, 2013D, 2014D, 2015D)
Olympic GamesW (2008N)
Doubles
Career record328–240 (57.7%)
Career titles20
Grand Slam doubles results
Australian Open3R (2003F, 2004N, 2005N)
French Open1R (2000F, 2006D)
WimbledonQF (2000F)
US OpenSF (2004N)
Other doubles tournaments
Olympic GamesW (2008F, 2016N)
Team competitions
Davis CupW (2004N, 2008N, 2009N, 2010D, 2011N, 2014F, 2019N)
Hopman CupW (2001F, 2018F, 2019F)
Medal record
Olympic Games – Tennis
Gold medal – first place 2008 Beijing SinglesN
Gold medal – first place 2008 Beijing DoublesF
Gold medal – first place 2016 Rio de Janeiro DoublesN
Silver medal – second place 2012 London SinglesF
Bronze medal – third place 2008 Beijing SinglesD
Last updated on: 21 March 2022.

They won 18 consecutive majors from the 2005 French Open to Wimbledon in 2009, 11 from the 2010 Australian Open to Wimbledon in 2012, and 13 from the 2017 Australian Open to the 2020 Australian Open. A member of the Big Three has been ATP year-end No. 1 every year from 2004 to 2021 except for 2016 (17 of 18). They have collectively occupied the top three positions of the year-end singles ATP rankings eight times, in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2018 and 2019.[4]

The Big Four was used to describe the larger quartet of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, and Andy Murray from about 2008 to 2017, though the term is occasionally still used when referring to the group in that period.[5][6][7] One of them has been seeded No. 1 from 2004 French Open to 2022 French Open, that is 73 consecutive Grand Slams. One of them was ranked No. 1 from 2 February 2004 to 27 February 2022, that is 921 consecutive weeks. They have collectively dominated the sport since 2004 in terms of ranking and tournament victories, including Grand Slam tournaments and ATP Masters events, as well as the ATP Finals championship, the ATP Tour 500 series and the Olympic Games. They have been a critical part of what has, since 2006, been labelled a new "Golden Era" in tennis.[8][9][10][11]

Federer was the first to come to prominence after winning Wimbledon in 2003, and became the world No. 1 after winning the Australian Open in 2004. Nadal followed in 2005 with a French Open triumph that included a win over Federer,[12] and the duo occupied the top two places in the ATP rankings from July 2005 to August 2009. Djokovic, from 2007, then Murray, from late 2008, increasingly challenged Federer and Nadal's dominance with seasonal consistency. By 2011, Nadal declared that his and Federer's period of joint dominance had ended, owing to the ascent of other players, namely Djokovic and later Murray.[13] Djokovic has been a dominant player since the beginning of 2011, gradually approaching or surpassing Federer and Nadal's career achievements.[14] Despite occasional injury breaks by individual members of the Big Three, they have maintained their collective dominance at the majors through to the present day. The emergence of new players (the "Next Gen") has tempered their dominance at the ATP Finals and ATP Masters tournaments since 2017.

The Big Four regularly held the top four places in the year-end rankings between 2008 and 2013 and were ranked year-end world top four from 2008 to 2012, the longest span of dominance for any quartet of players in tennis history.[citation needed] From 2007 to 2019, the year-end top three rankings were held by members of the Big Four ten times. The years they did not (2013, 2016 and 2017) were mainly due to one of them being hampered by injuries. They held the top two spots continuously from 25 July 2005 to 14 March 2021, as well as the top ranking unbrokenly since 2 February 2004, meaning that no player outside the Big Four has been ranked world No. 1 in 17 years or was top 2 for nearly 16 years (Daniil Medvedev became world No. 2 on 15 March 2021, ending their streak at the top 2). All four have reached a career-high ranking of world No. 1: Djokovic has been world No. 1 for a record 371 weeks, Federer for 310 weeks, Nadal for 209 weeks, and Murray for 41 weeks. Djokovic has been the year-end No. 1 of an all-time record seven seasons, with Federer and Nadal at five each and Murray at one.

Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic have each completed a career Grand Slam by winning all four majors at least once. Nadal has also won a gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics for a Career Golden Slam, and both Nadal and Djokovic have won each Grand Slam tournament at least twice for a Double Career Grand Slam. In the three Olympic Games between 2008 and 2016, the Big Four won five gold medals (Murray and Nadal with two each in singles and/or doubles, Federer with one in doubles), two silver medals (Murray and Federer) and a bronze medal (Djokovic).

Furthermore, at ATP Masters tournaments, the Big Three are the top three players with the most titles. Djokovic leads with a record 38 titles, followed by Nadal with 36 and Federer with 28. Djokovic has achieved the Career Golden Masters by winning each of the current nine Masters events, a feat he has completed twice.[15] Federer and Nadal have won nine and eight different Masters events respectively in their careers. In the ATP Finals championship, the Big Three won 11 out of 13 titles from 2003 to 2015, with Federer winning six and Djokovic five. The three of them have also played vital roles in leading their countries to victory in the Davis Cup. Djokovic and Federer helped Serbia (2010) and Switzerland (2014), respectively, win the competition for the first time, while Nadal has helped Spain win five Cups. Federer won three Hopman Cup titles for Switzerland.

In addition to all of these achievements, the Big Three hold many records for having won the most titles at individual tournaments, shared or alone, including the four Majors overall, Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon in each; the ATP Finals, the ATP Masters overall, each of the nine ATP Masters events and the ATP 500 series overall.

HistoryEdit

 
2003–2021 Grand Slam men's singles champions with updated numbers of career major titles

Federer and Nadal eraEdit

2003 Wimbledon–2004: Federer's ascendance & dominanceEdit

The early 2000s were seen as a time of transition in tennis, with older champions retiring and a few players breaking through at the very top of the game.[16][17] Roger Federer first played on the ATP Tour aged 17 in 1998,[18] finishing his first full ATP season the following year. By the end of the 2002 season, he was ranked sixth in the world. His breakthrough came in 2003 when he won his first Major title at Wimbledon,[19] won the year-end championships, and finished the year as the world No. 2 behind Andy Roddick. Federer then captured three of the four majors in 2004, losing only at the French Open, as well as becoming the world No. 1 on 2 February and maintaining the top position through the end of the year.

Rafael Nadal won his first ATP Tour match aged 15 in April 2002,[20] and he defeated Federer in their first meeting at the 2004 Miami Open.[21]

2005–2007: Continued Federer dominance, Nadal dominates clayEdit

In the following three years (2005–2007), Federer almost dominated the tennis scene entirely. Between 2005 Wimbledon and 2007 US Open, he captured eight of ten majors with a record of 67–2 in those tournaments (his only two losses in that stretch were delivered by Nadal at the French Open). Federer also maintained the world No. 1 ranking for the entirety of the period.

2005 was Nadal's breakthrough year, in which he won 24 consecutive matches on clay, including his first French Open title, beating Federer in the semifinals,[22] and he finished the year as the world No. 2. He was dominant on clay, suffering only one loss on the surface (to Federer at the 2007 Hamburg Masters final) between his breakout and the end of 2007. He established an 81-match winning streak on clay during this time.

The period between 2005 and 2007 was thus entirely dominated by Federer and Nadal. They won 11 consecutive majors between them, meeting in each French Open and Wimbledon final from 2006 to 2008. From 2005 to 2010, they ended each season as the world's top two players.

Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray were born a week apart, played each other as juniors,[23] and both made their Grand Slam tournament debuts in 2005. Djokovic made his ATP Tour debut in 2004, while Murray's was in 2005.[24] They both reached the world's top 100 in 2005, and the top 20 in 2006.[23] Djokovic, however, began to excel ahead of Murray in 2007, reaching one major final and two semifinals and beginning to regularly challenge Federer and Nadal.[25] He also won two Masters titles and five titles during the season, finishing 2007 as the world No. 3.[26] Murray, who was forced out of the French Open and Wimbledon by injury,[27][28] ended 2007 ranked 11th.[29]

Big Four eraEdit

2008–2010: Federer and Nadal dominance, Djokovic and Murray challengeEdit

 
Big Four member Andy Murray in Tokyo, 2011

Between 2008 and 2010, Djokovic and later Murray attempted to end the duopoly of Federer and Nadal at the summit of tennis. They did not break it but emerged ahead of the rest of the tour.

At the 2008 Australian Open, Djokovic defeated Federer in the semifinals, reaching his first Australian Open final and ending Federer's streak of ten consecutive Major finals.[30] Djokovic went on to defeat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (who had eliminated Nadal in the semifinals) to win his first Major. Following the win, Djokovic emerged as a clear world number three,[31] holding the ranking for the entirety of 2008. Meanwhile, Murray continued to rise in the rankings, reaching his first Major quarterfinal at Wimbledon, losing to Nadal.[32] He also won his first two Masters titles.

Nonetheless, Federer–Nadal remained the lead rivalry, as the pair met in the finals of both the French Open and Wimbledon. Nadal won both, with the latter final often described as one of the greatest tennis matches of all time.[33][34][35] In August, after winning singles gold at the Beijing Olympics and an early loss for Federer at the Cincinnati Masters, Nadal became the world No. 1, ending Federer's record 237 consecutive week streak at the top. At the US Open, all four players reached the semifinals of the same major for the first time. Federer defeated Djokovic in the semifinals, while Murray reached his first major final after upsetting the top-ranked Nadal in four sets.[36] Federer then defeated Murray in the final to win his fifth consecutive US Open title and his 13th Major title overall. Following the tournament, Murray entered the top four in the ATP rankings for the first time. All four players qualified for the year-end championships, which Djokovic won. Despite withdrawing from the event due to injury, Nadal ended the year ranked as the world No. 1.

In 2009, the quartet held the top four places in the rankings for the entire calendar year. This also prompted the first uses of the term 'Big Four' to refer to the players,[37] although results saw Nadal and Federer generally remain clear leaders ahead of Djokovic and Murray, who in turn were regarded as ahead of the rest of the tour. At the Australian Open, Nadal won his first title there in another five-set final, his third consecutive Major final victory over Federer, while Murray and Djokovic were eliminated earlier.[38] Nadal continued to dominate in most of the early season. He entered the French Open as the favourite, but was defeated in a massive upset by Robin Söderling in the fourth round. Federer went on to win his first French Open title, defeating Söderling in the final.[39] With the win, he equaled Pete Sampras' all-time record of 14 Grand Slam singles titles and completed the career Grand Slam, having lost to Nadal at each of the previous four editions of the French Open.[40] Federer subsequently surpassed Sampras' record by winning his 15th major title at Wimbledon.[41]

With Nadal's injuries, Murray and Djokovic improved in the rankings, with Murray reaching world No. 2 in August and ending the 211-week reign of Federer and Nadal as the top two ranked players.[42] At the US Open, Murray was upset in the fourth round by Marin Čilić, while Djokovic reached his first Grand Slam semifinal of the season, losing in straight sets to Federer.[43] Nadal was defeated by Juan Martín del Potro in the semifinals,[44] and del Potro beat Federer in the final to claim the title. Between 2005 Australian Open and 2014 Australian Open, this was the only major not won by a member of the Big Four. At the end of 2009, Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray finished as the ATP's top four players for the second consecutive year, with only Nadal and Federer changing positions from 2008. Federer finished the season having reached all four Major finals for the third time in his career following 2006 and 2007.

During the 2010 season, the Big Four began to dominate the Tour as a group for the first time.[45] They comprised six of the eight Grand Slam finalists and won a combined 16 tournaments (compared to six for the other four competitors at the 2010 ATP Finals).[45] At the start of the year, Federer continued his dominance as the world No. 1 by winning the Australian Open, defeating Murray in the final, but his run of 23 consecutive Grand Slam semifinals came to an end at the French Open when he lost to Robin Söderling in the fourth round. He then lost to Tomáš Berdych at Wimbledon, ending his run of seven consecutive Wimbledon finals. Nadal then resumed his domination of the clay-court season, winning all three clay-court Masters events and the French Open, where he defeated Söderling in the final.[46] Nadal also won Wimbledon over Berdych, having missed the previous year's edition due to injury.

At the US Open, Djokovic beat Federer in the semifinals to reach his third Major final, but he lost there to Nadal, who completed his career Grand Slam. With the win, Nadal became the first player to win Majors on three different surfaces in a single calendar year, known as the Surface Slam. All of the Big Four reached the 2010 ATP Finals semifinals with Federer defeating Nadal in three sets in the final, leading to them achieving their third successive season in the top four positions. Djokovic and Murray were third and fourth respectively, both reaching one Grand Slam final apiece.[47]

2011–2013: Big Four dominanceEdit

The 2011 season was dominated by Novak Djokovic. He won ten titles, including three majors (only the fifth man in the Open Era to do so) and five Masters titles (a then-record), enjoyed a 41-match winning streak (from the start of the season to his loss to Federer in the semifinals of the French Open), amassed a record amount in prize money, and ascended to the world No. 1 position for the first time in July. The season was described by many experts and former players as one of the best tennis seasons for a singles player seen in history, with Tennis Magazine describing it as the third-best tennis season ever, behind Federer's 2006 season, and Rod Laver's in 1969.[48] Pete Sampras described it as "one of the best achievements in all of sport."[49]

Djokovic's dominance contributed to overall control by the Big Four.[50] They all reached the semifinals at two of the year's Grand Slam events, and between them won every Masters tournament. Nadal was the clear world No. 2 behind Djokovic, winning the French Open and reaching both the Wimbledon and US Open finals (losing both to Djokovic). Nadal ended the season with a 0–6 record against Djokovic, with every encounter between them at a final.[51]

By his standards, Federer had a weak season. He failed to win a Grand Slam title for the first time since 2002, losing to Nadal for the fourth time in a French Open final. He dropped to world No. 4 in November, the first time he had been ranked outside the top three since 2002.[52] However, Federer rallied, winning his three final tournaments, including the ATP Finals, which secured an end-of-season ranking of world No. 3. Murray, meanwhile, made the semifinals of all four majors, with including a runner-up finish in the Australian Open final to Djokovic. Murray ended the year with two Masters titles for the fourth consecutive year, and five titles in total.[53]

The dominance of the Big Four continued in 2012. Each player won a major: Djokovic the Australian Open, Nadal the French Open, Federer Wimbledon and Murray (who hired former world number 1 Ivan Lendl as his head coach earlier in the year[54]) his maiden major title at the US Open. This win – combined with winning the gold medal at the London Olympics at Wimbledon with consecutive victories over Djokovic and Federer – increased Murray's standing as a member of the Big Four: his end-of-season ranking of world No. 3 was his career-best.[55][56] Djokovic entered the season as the world No. 1 and remained there until July 2012, when he was overtaken by Federer, who reclaimed the top spot for the first time in two years. Federer subsequently overtook Sampras' all-time record of 286 weeks as the world No. 1, and extended the record to 302.[57] Federer relinquished his world No. 1 ranking on 5 November to Djokovic, who ended the a second consecutive season there. Djokovic was the only player to reach the semifinals at all majors, defeating Nadal in the final of the Australian Open (in what is considered to be one of the greatest tennis matches of all time), and was the runner-up at both Roland Garros and the US Open. He and Federer each won three Masters tournaments. Federer was also the silver medalist at the Olympics, where Djokovic finished fourth. Nadal, meanwhile, had his season curtailed by an injury. Having won two clay-court Masters tournaments and Roland Garros, he was eliminated in the second round at Wimbledon – his earliest defeat at a Grand Slam tournament since 2005.[58] He did not compete for the rest of the season, but still ended the year as world No. 4.

The 2013 season continued similarly, with Djokovic, Federer and Murray occupying three of the four semifinal slots at the Australian Open, with Nadal still suffering from an injury. Murray beat Federer in a five-set semifinal match, meaning all four members of the Big Four had beaten each other at least once at a major, but he lost to Djokovic in the final.[59][60] Nadal returned for the clay-court season, winning five events before becoming the only man to win a major eight times by taking the French Open, defeating Djokovic in an epic semifinal clash en route.[61] However, Djokovic ended Nadal's record eight-year winning streak at the Monte-Carlo Masters.[62] Nadal and Federer lost early at Wimbledon, thus ending Federer's record streak of 36 consecutive major quarterfinals.[63][64] Murray defeated Djokovic in the final, becoming the first Briton to win the men's singles title in 77 years.[65] Nadal dominated the US Open series, winning the Canada Masters, Cincinnati Masters, and US Open, defeating Djokovic in the final of the latter.

Nadal and Djokovic dominated the 2013 season. Nadal won two Majors and five Masters events, and was runner-up at the ATP Finals. Nadal made the final at all eight clay-court tournaments he played, winning six; he also made the semifinals at all eight of his hard-court tournaments, winning four titles. Djokovic won one Major, reached two major finals and a semifinal, and finished the year on a 22-match winning streak after taking the ATP Finals.[66] A back injury ended Murray's season prematurely,[67] but he finished fourth in the rankings and was the only player besides Nadal and Djokovic to win a Grand Slam event or Masters title (at Wimbledon and Miami respectively). Federer suffered his worst season in over a decade. He reached just one Major semifinal at the Australian Open, failed to win a single Masters crown, and finished the year sixth in the rankings with one title to his name; he also suffered from a recurring back injury throughout the season.[68]

2014: Dominance in majors haltedEdit

As 2013 came to a close, Federer's fall in the rankings prompted many sources to debate whether the dominance of the Big Four had ended.[69][70][71][72][73][74][75][76][77] This debate intensified after the Australian Open, which saw Stan Wawrinka defeat Djokovic in the quarterfinal and Nadal in the final to win his first Slam title, marking just the second time since 2005 and the first since 2009 that a player outside the Big Four had won a major title.[78] Murray and Federer fell to sixth and eighth in the rankings respectively,[79] and after the tournament, several players expressed the opinion that they were now capable of challenging the Big Four.[80][81][82][83] However, the first two Masters titles of the year in Indian Wells and Miami only had Big Four finalists, with Djokovic winning his third and fourth consecutive Masters titles with victories over Federer and Nadal respectively.[84][85] Nadal struggled early in the clay season at his traditional favorite tournaments of Monte-Carlo and Barcelona. A third loss, to Djokovic in the final of the Rome Masters, was the first time Nadal had lost more than two matches on clay in a season for a decade.[86] He did, however, win the Madrid Masters after Nishikori injured his back whilst leading Nadal 6–2, 4–3 in that final.[87] Nadal went on to defend his French Open title, defeating Murray in the semifinal and Djokovic in the final.

Following his back surgery at the end of 2013, Murray struggled to return to form in the first half of the year, reaching only two semifinals and losing to Grigor Dimitrov in straight sets in the quarterfinals while attempting to defend his Wimbledon title, a defeat which saw him fall to No. 10 in the world rankings.[88] This, and Nadal's loss to Nick Kyrgios in the fourth round, his third consecutive early-round loss at Wimbledon, led former players and experts, including Jimmy Connors, to express the opinion that the "aura" around the Big Four had faded.[89] Milos Raonic, who reached the semifinals at Wimbledon, suggested a "human side" was visible in the Big Four, which was giving players belief when facing them.[90] However, Djokovic defeated Dimitrov and Federer beat Raonic to make it an all-Big Four final, the 24th they had contested. Djokovic defeated Federer in five sets to claim his second Wimbledon title,[91] a result that left Djokovic, Nadal and Federer occupying the top three places in the rankings.

Federer continued his return to form reaching the finals of Toronto and winning his first Masters title since 2012 in Cincinnati.[92] Later, he also won the Shanghai Masters, and returned to No. 2 in the rankings, overtaking Nadal, whose season had been curtailed by a wrist injury.[93] The US Open 2014 saw the Big Four's collective grip on the major titles slip still further, however, as Kei Nishikori and Marin Čilić beat Djokovic and Federer in the semifinals respectively to contest the first Slam final featuring none of the Big Four since the 2005 Australian Open, and the first time since 2003 that multiple first-time Grand Slam tournament winners have been crowned in a single season. Following the tournament, Murray dropped to 11th in the rankings, his first time outside the top ten since 2008. The tournament further signalled the decline of the Big Four's dominance.[94] Towards the end of the year, Murray managed to return to form, winning three titles in Shenzhen, Vienna and Valencia, allowing him to return to the top ten in the rankings[95] and qualify for the Tour Finals, but he bowed out at the group stages following a defeat by Federer, in which he won just a single game. Indeed, throughout the year, Murray failed to register a single victory against another member of the Big Four in nine meetings.

At the Tour finals, Federer and Djokovic both reached the final, but Federer withdrew citing injury following a semifinal win over Wawrinka.[96] Federer recovered to win the Davis Cup as part of the Switzerland team for his, and the country's, first triumph in the competition, leading many people to say that his tennis career was now complete.[97] Collectively, the Big Four won 19 titles in 2014, but two Slam titles and two Masters titles went to other players. In the end-of-year rankings, Djokovic, Federer and Nadal held the top three spots, with Murray in sixth.

2015–2016: Djokovic domination, Murray and Federer challengeEdit

Following Murray's strong end to 2014 and reaching the final of the 2015 Australian Open, he moved into the top four in the ATP rankings for the first time in over a year, meaning that the Big Four held the top four places in the rankings for the first time since early 2013, slowing the idea of the regression of the quartet.[98][99][100][101] Djokovic won the title, as well as the first three Masters titles of the year in Indian Wells, Miami and Monte-Carlo.[102][103] In Madrid, Murray defeated Nadal in straight sets.[104] This was also the first time he had beaten another member of the Big Four in a Tour match since Wimbledon 2013, ending a streak of 12 losses against the other members. The defeat saw Nadal slip to seventh in the rankings, his first time outside the top five in more than a decade.[105] Djokovic defeated Federer in the Rome final. Nadal suffered his worst European clay-court season in a decade, failing to win a single title and appearing in just one final, whereas Djokovic and Murray entered the second Grand Slam event of the year unbeaten on clay. Djokovic defeated Nadal for the first time at the French Open in a straight-sets quarterfinal. This was only Nadal's second defeat at the French Open, seeing him drop to No. 10 in the rankings.[106] Djokovic emerged victorious over Murray in a five-set match that was spread over two days[107] but succumbed to Wawrinka in the final in four sets.[108]

Federer beat Murray in straight sets in the semifinals of Wimbledon.[109] Djokovic claimed the other spot in the final, to set up a rematch of the previous year's final, and defeated Federer in four sets to win his second major of the year, denying Federer a record eighth Wimbledon title for the second year in a row.[110] Murray and Federer shared the two North American hard-court Masters titles, at Montreal and Cincinnati respectively, with Djokovic being the losing finalist on both occasions.[111][112] The US Open final was contested by Djokovic and Federer. Djokovic won in four sets, giving him a third slam title of the season.[113]

Djokovic then continued to dominate throughout the remainder of the year, winning in Beijing, Shanghai, Paris and at the ATP Finals. Overall, Djokovic's 2015 season was one of the greatest in the history of the game, with him winning 11 titles (the most since Federer won 12 in 2006) including, for the second time, three majors. He also became the only man in the Open Era besides Federer and Rod Laver to reach all four major finals in the same year. He was dominant even against his fellow Big Four rivals, going 15–4 against them throughout the year. Federer was the most competitive against Djokovic, winning three of their eight matches, which made up half of Djokovic's total defeats in 2015. Nadal and Murray both struggled against the Serb, with Nadal losing all four of his encounters in straight sets, and Murray winning only one of his seven encounters, in Montreal. However, Murray did lead Great Britain to Davis Cup victory in 2015, winning all eight singles rubbers and becoming the final member of the quartet to win the Davis Cup. Murray did finish at his career-highest year-end ranking of two even if he won fewer titles, reached fewer finals and had less success versus Djokovic when compared with Federer in the number three ranking.

In 2016, Djokovic collected his sixth Australian Open title in a straight-sets victory over Murray. He followed up this solid run of form with a record-setting fifth Indian Wells and record-equaling sixth Miami masters titles. Nadal won Monte Carlo for a record ninth time. Murray and Djokovic played in the finals of Madrid and Rome and split the titles. At the 2016 French Open, Murray reached his first Paris final to complete his set of Grand Slam singles finals, but Djokovic beat him in the final to become the third Big Four member after Federer and Nadal to complete a Career Grand Slam, and the first player since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time.

In the Wimbledon final, Murray beat Raonic in straight sets to win his second Wimbledon title, and third major title overall. Murray's victory marked the first time since the 2010 French Open that a member of the Big Four had won a Grand Slam singles title without having to defeat one of the other three members. Federer withdrew from the remainder of the 2016 season due to a knee injury, missing the Olympics and US Open.[114]

At the Olympics, Djokovic was knocked out of the men's singles in the opening round by Juan Martín del Potro, in a repeat of the bronze medal match from four years earlier.[115] Del Potro went on to defeat Nadal in an epic semifinal to set up a final meeting with Murray.[116] Murray ultimately won the final in four sets, becoming the first male player to win the singles gold medal twice. Nadal lost the bronze medal match to Kei Nishikori but won gold in the men's doubles event.[116] Djokovic won Toronto with Murray losing in the finals of Cincinnati. At the US Open, Djokovic reached the final but was defeated once again by Stan Wawrinka in a Grand Slam singles final.

Murray dominated the rest of the year. He won titles in Beijing, Shanghai, Vienna and Paris. As a result, upon reaching the Paris final, Murray gained the number-one ranking, ending Djokovic's 122 consecutive weeks at the top. This meant that all of the Big Four had reached world number one at some point. Following an early loss at Shanghai, Nadal announced that he would skip the remainder of the 2016 season to recover fully from the wrist injury that troubled him earlier in the year. Thus, for the first time since 2001, neither Nadal nor Federer would be present at the year-end championships. At the ATP Finals, Murray beat Djokovic 6–3 6–4, claiming the title and the No. 1 spot at the end of the year and ending 2016 on a 24-match winning streak, the longest of his career. He became the second player after Andre Agassi to win a Grand Slam singles tournament, ATP Finals, Olympic and Masters titles, and the first to do so in the same calendar year. 2016 marked the first year since 2003 that neither Federer, Nadal or Djokovic finished the year as world number 1. Despite his struggles with form throughout the second half of the year, Djokovic still ended 2016 as world number two. Having suffered from injury-plagued seasons, Nadal and Federer ended the year at number nine and 16 respectively. For Nadal, it was his lowest end-of-year ranking since 2004, while Federer's fall in the rankings meant that November 2016 marked his first time outside the top ten since October 2002.

Big Three solidifiedEdit

2017–2018 French Open: Federer and Nadal return, Djokovic and Murray sidelinedEdit

At the Australian Open, Djokovic and Murray both suffered defeats prior the quarterfinals. Nadal and Federer, meanwhile, both progressed to the final after each won five-set semifinals. In the highly-anticipated final, Federer triumphed over Nadal in five sets, winning his 18th Grand Slam title and his first since Wimbledon 2012. Federer went on to win a record-equaling fifth Indian Wells title, defeating Nadal in the fourth round. Federer and Nadal once again met in the Miami Open final, where Federer again won.

As the 2017 clay court swing commenced, Federer skipped the entire clay season to rest and focus on the grass and hard-court seasons, as well as to prolong his career. Nadal claimed the Monte-Carlo Masters title, which saw him become the first man to win a single tournament ten times and simultaneously establish a new record for the most clay-court titles at 50, surpassing Guillermo Vilas' 49. Nadal also won in Madrid, while Djokovic fell to Alexander Zverev in the Rome final. Nadal breezed through to the French Open title, defeating Wawrinka in the final and not dropping a set at the tournament for the third time in his career. This marked Nadal's first major title since the 2014 French Open. Following the win, Nadal returned to world No. 2, while Djokovic, who lost in the quarterfinals, fell to world No. 4, his lowest ranking since October 2009 and his first time outside the top two of the rankings since March 2011.

At Wimbledon, the quartet formed the top four seeds at a major for the first time since 2014.[117] Nadal, Murray and Djokovic all lost before the semifinals. Federer, however, won the title without dropping a set by beating Marin Čilić in the final. Federer's run marked a record-breaking eleventh Wimbledon final and eighth title. This led to the "Big Four" being the ATP top four again.[118] Djokovic announced in July that he would skip the rest of the 2017 season to recover from an elbow injury,[119] and Murray did not play another tournament in 2017 as well due to a hip injury.[120] At the Montreal Masters, Federer reached the final but sustained a severe back injury there, which took him out of contention for the US Open and the No. 1 ranking. Although Nadal did not reach the semifinals of either North American Masters event, he returned to world No. 1 over the inactive Murray. Nadal then defeated Kevin Anderson in the US Open final. This was the fourth time that Nadal and Federer had won all four majors in the same year, following their sweeps in 2006, 2007, and 2010. Additionally, on 11 September 2017, Nadal and Federer were ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, the first time since 20 March 2011 that they held the top two rankings spots. Federer then returned to Shanghai and won his second title there, defeating Nadal in the final. This was his fourth win out of four meetings with Nadal in 2017, as well as his fifth consecutive.

In 2017, Nadal had his best year since 2013, winning two majors and four other titles. Federer finished the year at world No. 2 behind Nadal and overall had his best year since 2007, with his highest number of titles won since that year, winning two majors for the first time since 2009, and ending the year with a winning percentage of 91%, his highest since 2006. Djokovic and Murray both finished with their lowest year-end rankings since 2006, at No. 12 and 16 respectively.

At the start of 2018, Murray underwent hip surgery for the injury that had sidelined him since the previous summer. Djokovic and Nadal lost early at the Australian Open. Federer, however, went on to defend his title in a five-set final against Marin Čilić, thus equaling Djokovic and Roy Emerson's record of six Australian Open titles, and becoming the first man to win 20 major titles. Soon after, by reaching the semifinals in Rotterdam, Federer overtook returned to world No. 1. In doing so, he became the oldest-ever player to top the ATP rankings (since 1973).

Federer reached the final of Indian Wells, but lost to Juan Martín del Potro. Federer's early loss in Miami resulted in the loss of the No. 1 ranking with Nadal overtaking him by 100 points. Federer announced that he would again skip the entire clay-court season. Nadal won his eleventh title in Monte Carlo, then claimed an 11th Barcelona title, winning both without dropping a set.[121] Nadal's loss to Dominic Thiem in the Madrid quarterfinals returned the No. 1 ranking back to Federer for one week until Nadal won the title in Rome.

Following Djokovic's early exit from the Australian Open, he underwent surgery for the wrist injury that had been causing him issues for the previous year. He returned to the Tour at Indian Wells and struggled much with form, failing to reach the quarterfinals of any of his first five tournaments after surgery. He showed promise by reaching the semifinals of Rome, losing to Nadal in two tight sets. He reached the quarterfinals of the French Open, but lost to unseeded Marco Cecchinato. Nadal went on to win the tournament, defeating Dominic Thiem in the final to claim a record-extending 11th French Open title and his 17th major overall. Federer returned to the Tour for Stuttgart and won the title there, which saw him return to the No. 1 ranking for a 310th week.

2018 Wimbledon–2020 Australian Open: Djokovic returns, dominates with NadalEdit

At Wimbledon, Federer lost to Kevin Anderson in the quarterfinals despite holding a two-sets-to-love lead and holding a match point in the third set, having suffered a hand injury at the start of the grass season.[122] Djokovic and Nadal, meanwhile, made the semifinals, where twetlfth-seeded Djokovic defeated world No. 1 Nadal in five sets to reach his first major final in nearly two years. He then defeated Anderson in the final to win his fourth Wimbledon title and 13th major title overall.

At the US Open, both Djokovic and Nadal made the semifinals, where Nadal retired against Juan Martín del Potro after being two sets down due to a knee injury he sustained during the tournament. Djokovic, on the other hand, defeated Kei Nishikori to make his eighth US Open final, where he beat del Potro for his 14th major title. He then followed this up with victory at the Shanghai Masters.

Nadal withdrew before his first match at the Paris Masters, thus yielding the No. 1 ranking to Djokovic. Djokovic and Federer met in the semifinals, where Djokovic won in three hours. Djokovic was defeated by Karen Khachanov in the final. Nadal withdrew from the ATP Finals to undergo surgery for an ankle injury. Federer and Djokovic were both defeated at the ATP Finals by Alexander Zverev in the semifinals and final, respectively. The year ended with Djokovic, Nadal and Federer occupying the top-three positions in the rankings.

In the Australian Open, Federer was upset in the fourth round by 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas in a tight four-setter. In the final, Djokovic defeated Nadal in straight sets to claim a record-winning seventh Australian Open title and increased his major tally to 15. In the week following the Australian Open, Murray underwent another hip surgery.

Federer rebounded from his early loss at the Australian Open by winning his 100th title in Dubai. He followed this with a runner-up finish at Indian Wells and a title in Miami.

After withdrawing from Indian Wells due to injury, Nadal initially struggled upon returning for the clay-court season, losing in the semifinals at Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid. However, he returned to form in Rome, defeating Djokovic in the final to win his ninth crown at the event. At the French Open, Federer returned to play at the tournament for the first time since 2015, reaching the semifinals where he was defeated by Nadal in straight sets. Djokovic also reached the semifinals without losing a set, but was beaten in five sets by Dominic Thiem in a match that was spread over two days due to rain. In the final, Nadal prevailed over Thiem for a second consecutive year, winning the tournament for a record-extending 12th time. The win brought Nadal to 18 major titles, just two behind Federer's record of 20. Federer, meanwhile, won his tenth title in Halle, making him the only player in the Open Era besides Nadal to win ten titles at the same event.

In Wimbledon, Nadal and Federer again met in the semifinals, their first meeting at Wimbledon since the 2008 final. Federer defeated Nadal in four sets to reach the final, where he faced Djokovic. There, Djokovic defeated Federer in the longest Wimbledon men's final in history. It was Djokovic's 16th major title, only trailing Federer's 20 and Nadal's 18.

Nadal returned in Montreal where he defended his title. Following his victory, he decided not to play in Cincinnati once again. Murray, meanwhile, continued his comeback to tennis through doubles, playing with his brother Jamie in Washington and with Feliciano López, with whom he won the title in Queen's, in Montreal. In both tournaments, he failed to advance beyond the quarter-finals. However, he returned to singles in Cincinnati, where he lost in the first round to Richard Gasquet in straight sets. There, Federer was upset in the third round by qualifier Andrey Rublev, and Djokovic was upset in the semifinals by the eventual champion Daniil Medvedev.

Murray declined to participate in the US Open, instead participating in the Manacor Challenger, where he lost to Matteo Viola at the round of 16. At the US Open, Djokovic retired against Stan Wawrinka in the fourth round due to a shoulder injury, and Federer was upset by Grigor Dimitrov in the quarterfinals. Nadal only dropped one set en route to his fifth US Open final, where he met Daniil Medvedev. Despite Nadal going up two sets to love, Medvedev responded furiously and claimed the next two sets. Nadal then defeated Medvedev 6–4 in the fifth set, claiming his fourth US Open title and 19th major title overall, one behind Federer's record.

Nadal ended 2019 as the world No. 1 for the fifth time, despite not reaching the semifinals of ATP Finals.[123] In the 2019 Davis Cup, Spain won its sixth title (its first since 2011), defeating Canada in the final 2–0. Nadal received the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award for his performance in the tournament after he won all eight matches in which he participated.[124] This was Nadal's fifth Davis Cup title.[125]

At the 2020 Australian Open, Nadal lost to Dominic Thiem in the quarterfinals, while Djokovic defeated Federer in the semifinals. Djokovic then won his eighth Australian Open title and his 17th major overall by a narrow victory over Thiem in the final.[126]

2020–2021: Disrupted seasons, Nadal and Djokovic tie Federer's major recordEdit

The 2020 season was heavily disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Four of the five Masters tournaments typically held between the Australian and the French Open were cancelled, with the Italian Open the only one to be postponed. The French Open itself was postponed to late September, while Wimbledon was cancelled. The first Masters to be held after the resumption of the Tour was the Cincinnati Masters, where Djokovic emerged victorious to complete the double career Golden Masters.

Nadal opted to skip the US Open, citing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, while Federer withdrew due to a knee injury.[127] Djokovic was disqualified from the tournament during his fourth-round match against Pablo Carreño-Busta after inadvertently striking a ball at a line judge after conceding a break.[128] The title was won by Dominic Thiem, who became the first player outside the Big Three to win a major since Stan Wawrinka in 2016. Djokovic rebounded to win a record 36th Masters title in the Italian Open two weeks later. Federer did not enter the rescheduled French Open, still sidelined by his knee injury. Murray lost in the first round to Wawrinka, while Nadal successfully defended his title over Djokovic in a straight-sets final. With the win, Nadal equaled Federer's all-time record of 20 major singles titles and extended his own record to 13 titles from the same major tournament.

"I have to pay a great tribute to Rafa and Roger. They are legends of our sport. The two most important players I ever faced. They are the reason I am where I am today. They made me realise what I had to do to improve."

—Novak Djokovic, after winning his record-equaling 20th Grand Slam title.[129]

Federer did not compete in the 2021 Australian Open in order to recover from surgery. There, Nadal was upset by Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals despite taking a two-sets-to-love lead, while Djokovic successfully defended his title by beating Daniil Medvedev in straight sets. The win marked his ninth Australian Open title and 18th major title overall, putting him two titles away from tying Federer and Nadal.

Nadal achieved his 36th Masters victory by defeating Djokovic in the Italian Open final. At the French Open, Federer withdrew after his third round victory in order not to jeopardize his recovery from a knee injury, while Nadal's bid at winning a record 21st major ended when he lost to Djokovic in an epic semifinal encounter. Despite being down two sets to love in the final against Stefanos Tsitsipas, Djokovic rallied to win the title in five sets. With the victory, Djokovic won his second French Open title and 19th major singles title overall, and became the third man to have won each of the four majors at least twice or more (after Roy Emerson and Rod Laver), and the first to do so in the Open Era. Djokovic was then only one title away from tying Federer and Nadal for the most men's singles majors of all-time.

Nadal withdrew from Wimbledon due to scheduling reasons. Murray returned to Wimbledon for the first time since 2017; he lost to Denis Shapovalov in the third round. Federer was defeated in the quarterfinals by Hubert Hurkacz. Djokovic won the title and his 20th major against Matteo Berrettini, thereby equaling both Federer and Nadal's all-time tally. The victory made him the first man to win the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon titles in the same calendar year since Rod Laver in 1969, and the second player to win Majors on three different surfaces in a calendar year, after Nadal in 2010.[130]

Djokovic had hoped to win the Golden Slam and the career Super Slam by winning the men's singles gold at the delayed Tokyo Olympics. However, he lost in the semifinals to Alexander Zverev, despite being up a set and a break.[131] He subsequently lost the bronze medal match to Pablo Carreño Busta.[132]

Federer pulled out of the US Open due to his need for further knee surgery, while Nadal also withdrew due to a nagging foot injury. Murray was defeated by Tsitsipas in the first round. Djokovic lost in the final to Daniil Medvedev, preventing him from winning a record 21 majors and achieving the Grand Slam, which would have been the first in men's tennis since Rod Laver in 1969. Medvedev thus became the twelfth player outside the Big Three to win a major since Federer's first win at 2003 Wimbledon.

At the Paris Masters, Djokovic defeated Medvedev in the final to win his sixth Masters title and surpass Nadal for the most Masters title at 37. By reaching the final, Djokovic also guaranteed a year-end No. 1 ranking for the seventh time, surpassing Pete Sampras' all-time record.

2022: Nadal wins 21st major, and stands aloneEdit

Djokovic was unable to compete in the Australian Open due to his being unvaccinated and thus denied an Australian visa after a controversial legal battle. While claiming to be exempt and initially allowed to compete by the Australian Government, he ended up being denied, after multiple appeals. The visa cancellation prevented him from defending his title and potentially barring him from Australia for three years. Federer was unable to compete due to his knee injury, while Murray was defeated by Taro Daniel in the second round. Meanwhile, Nadal returned to play following a lengthy six-month injury hiatus and a COVID-19 infection. Despite playing with low expectations,[133] Nadal progressed to the quarterfinals, where he defeated 14th-seeded Denis Shapovalov in five sets, then seventh-seeded Matteo Berrettini in four sets. In the five-hour, 24-minute final, he defeated second-seeded Daniil Medvedev, coming back from a two-set deficit, to win his record-breaking 21st major and establish the new all-time record for the most men's singles majors titles. The win also completed Nadal's double career Grand Slam, making him the second man to do so in the Open Era after Djokovic.

In February 2022, Medvedev became the world No. 1 ranked player after Djokovic lost in the quarterfinals of the Dubai Championships, thus ending the Big Four's streak of 921 weeks with the top ranking (beginning in 2 February 2004 when Federer overtook Andy Roddick).

Career statisticsEdit

Key
W  F  SF QF #R RR Q# DNQ A NH
(W) winner; (F) finalist; (SF) semifinalist; (QF) quarterfinalist; (#R) rounds 4, 3, 2, 1; (RR) round-robin stage; (Q#) qualification round; (DNQ) did not qualify; (A) absent; (NH) not held; (SR) strike rate (events won / competed); (W–L) win–loss record.
To avoid confusion and double counting, these charts are updated at the conclusion of a tournament or when the player's participation has ended.

Grand Slam tournamentsEdit

The Big Three are the top three players in terms of Grand Slam men's singles titles won, as well as in terms of finals reached. Federer and Djokovic have reached 31 finals and Nadal 29. They are the only three men to win eight or more singles titles at the same Grand Slam tournament: Nadal with 13 French Open titles, Djokovic with 9 Australian Open titles and Federer with 8 Wimbledon titles.

Year Australian Open French Open Wimbledon US Open
2003   Andre Agassi   Juan Carlos Ferrero   Roger Federer   Andy Roddick
2004   Roger Federer   Gastón Gaudio   Roger Federer   Roger Federer
2005   Marat Safin   Rafael Nadal   Roger Federer   Roger Federer
2006   Roger Federer   Rafael Nadal   Roger Federer   Roger Federer
2007   Roger Federer   Rafael Nadal   Roger Federer   Roger Federer
2008   Novak Djokovic   Rafael Nadal   Rafael Nadal   Roger Federer
2009   Rafael Nadal   Roger Federer   Roger Federer   Juan Martín del Potro
2010   Roger Federer   Rafael Nadal   Rafael Nadal   Rafael Nadal
2011   Novak Djokovic   Rafael Nadal   Novak Djokovic   Novak Djokovic
2012   Novak Djokovic   Rafael Nadal   Roger Federer   Andy Murray
2013   Novak Djokovic   Rafael Nadal   Andy Murray   Rafael Nadal
2014   Stan Wawrinka   Rafael Nadal   Novak Djokovic   Marin Čilić
2015   Novak Djokovic   Stan Wawrinka   Novak Djokovic   Novak Djokovic
2016   Novak Djokovic   Novak Djokovic   Andy Murray   Stan Wawrinka
2017   Roger Federer   Rafael Nadal   Roger Federer   Rafael Nadal
2018   Roger Federer   Rafael Nadal   Novak Djokovic   Novak Djokovic
2019   Novak Djokovic   Rafael Nadal   Novak Djokovic   Rafael Nadal
2020   Novak Djokovic   Rafael Nadal Tournament cancelled*   Dominic Thiem
2021   Novak Djokovic   Novak Djokovic   Novak Djokovic   Daniil Medvedev
2022   Rafael Nadal

* Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 edition of the Wimbledon Championships was cancelled.


Combined performance timeline (best result)Edit

  • Since the year of first Slam win.
Grand Slam 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 SR
Australian Open 4RF WF SFF WF WF WD WN WF WD WD WD FN WD WD WF WF WD WD WD WN 17/20
French Open 1RF 3RF WN WN WN WN WF WN WN WN WN WN FD WD WN WN WN WN WD 16/19
Wimbledon WF WF WF WF WF WN WF WN WD WF FD WD WD SFF WF WD WD NH[b] WD 16/18
US Open 4RF WF WF WF WF WF FF WN WD FD WN SFDF WD FD WN WD WN 4RD FD 12/19

ATP FinalsEdit

Combined performance timeline (best result)Edit

  • Since the year of first ATP Finals qualification.
ATP Finals 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 SR
SFF WF WF FF WF WF WD SFF WF WF WD WD WD WD FD SFF FD SFF SFDN SFD 11/20

Top-level tournamentsEdit

Current through the 2022 Italian Open.
Titles Grand Slams ATP Finals ATP Masters Olympics Career
Slam
Career
Golden Slam
Golden
Masters
W–L (%)
AO RG WIM USO IW MIA MON MAD[c] ROM CAN CIN SHA[d] PAR
63   Novak Djokovic W (9) W (2) W (6) W (3) W (5) W (5) W (6) W (2) W (3) W (6) W (4) W (2) W (4) W (6)   2016, 2021 × 2018, 2020 758–152 (83.3%)
58   Rafael Nadal W (2) W (13) W (2) W (4) F (2) W (3) F (5) W (11) W (5) W (10) W (5) W (1) W (1)¤ F (1)   2010, 2022 2010 × 734–145 (83.5%)
54   Roger Federer W (6) W (1) W (8) W (5) W (6) W (5) W (4) F (4) W (6)¤ F (4) W (2) W (7) W (3)¤ W (1)   2009 × × 822–190 (81.2%)
175 Total 61 11 102 1 5 1 2 2314–487 (82.6%)

^ Open-era record underlined.
¤ denotes titles were won in different tournaments.

ATP rankingsEdit

 
Ranking history for the Big Four 1999–2021

The Big Three monopolized the top spot in the ATP men's singles rankings 890 weeks (equivalent to 17 years). Djokovic has been ranked number 1 for an ATP record 371 weeks, Federer for 310 weeks, and Nadal for 209 weeks. Each player has occupied the top position at the end of the year at least five times, with Djokovic holding the ATP record with seven.

Combined rankings timeline (best result)Edit

  • Since the first year-end No. 1 finish.
Year-end ranking 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 Total
1F 1F 1F 1F 1N 1F 1N 1D 1D 1N 1D 1D 2D 1N 1D 1N 1D 1D
Years at No. 1 5F 5N 7D 17
Weeks at No. 1 310F 209N 371D 890

^ Open-era record underlined.

Head-to-head matchupsEdit

The respective rivalries between the Big Three are considered to be some of the greatest tennis rivalries of all time,[134][135][136][137] and are the three most prolific men's rivalries of the Open Era. Amongst the three of them they have played 148 matches against each other, 48 of which were at Grand Slam events. This includes 23 Grand Slam tournament finals, more than any other trio. Currently, Djokovic leads his head-to-head record against both Federer and Nadal.[138] Federer has delivered the most bagels against the other two with four, while receiving only one.[139]

Player   Djokovic   Nadal   Federer Win % Finals Win %
  Novak Djokovic 30–28 27–23 57–51 (52.8%) 28–19 (59.6%)
  Rafael Nadal 28–30 24–16 52–46 (53.1%) 27–25 (51.9%)
  Roger Federer 23–27 16–24 39–51 (43.3%) 16–27 (37.2%)

Results by tournament levelEdit

Player All tournaments Grand Slams ATP Masters ATP Finals
Matches W L % Finals W% Matches W L % Finals W% Matches W L % Finals W% Matches W L % Finals W%
  Roger Federer 90 39 51 43% 16–27 (37%) 31 10 21 32% 4–10 (29%) 39 16 23 41% 8–12 (40%) 11 7 4 64% 1–2 (33%)
  Rafael Nadal 98 52 46 53% 27–25 (52%) 31 20 11 65% 11–7 (61%) 48 25 23 52% 14–12 (54%) 10 3 7 30% 0–2 (0%)
  Novak Djokovic 108 57 51 53% 28–19 (60%) 34 18 16 53% 8–6 (57%) 49 27 22 55% 12–10 (55%) 11 6 5 55% 3–0 (100%)
Total 148 71 48 23 68 34 16 4

Results by court surfaceEdit

Nadal is dominant on clay, particularly at the French Open, where he has won all six matches against Federer and seven of nine against Djokovic.

Player Hard Clay Grass
Matches W L % Matches W L % Matches W L %
  Roger Federer 58 29 29 50% 24 6 18 25% 8 4 4 50%
  Rafael Nadal 47 16 31 34% 43 33 10 77% 8 3 5 38%
  Novak Djokovic 65 40 25 62% 35 12 23 34% 8 5 3 63%
Total 85 51 12

^ Two walkovers (2014 ATP Finals final and 2019 Indian Wells semifinal) are not included in the table.

Overall major record comparisonEdit

Major record   Djokovic   Nadal   Federer
Grand Slam 20 21 20
ATP Finals 5 0 6
ATP Masters 38 (9/9) 36 (7/9) 28 (7/9)
Olympics 0 1 0
Weeks No. 1 371 209 310
ATP Year end No. 1 7 5 5
Head to head 27-23(F), 30-28(N) 28-30(D), 24-16(F) 23-27(D), 16-24(N)

^ Record between Big Three is bolded.
^ Open-era record underlined.

Grand Slam title raceEdit

The Big Three are currently competing to win the most Grand Slam men's singles titles of all-time.[140] Federer first led the trio by winning his first Grand Slam singles title at 2003 Wimbledon. He broke Pete Sampras's all-time record 14 Grand Slam titles at 2009 Wimbledon.[141] Following the 2010 Australian Open, Federer had 16 titles, Nadal 6, and Djokovic 1, the peak of Federer's lead over Nadal and Djokovic. After winning the 2016 French Open, Djokovic came to within 2 titles of Nadal (14 vs. 12), but over the next two years, Nadal and Federer extended their lead over Djokovic again; following the 2018 French Open, Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic had 20, 17, and 12 titles, respectively. During the 2010s, Federer's lead gradually shrank, culminating in Nadal tying Federer's record 20 titles with his win at the 2020 French Open. Subsequently, Djokovic's three victories in 2021 brought him on an equal footing with Federer and Nadal, when for the first time all three players had an equal number of titles.[142] At the 2022 Australian Open, Nadal surpassed both Federer and Djokovic by claiming the singles title.[143]

Chronologically

Federer won his first Grand Slam title in 2003, Nadal in 2005, and Djokovic in 2008. Djokovic won his most recent title in 2021, Nadal in 2022, and Federer in 2018.

By age

Nadal won his first Grand Slam title at age 19, Djokovic at 20, and Federer at 21. Federer won his most recent title at age 36, Nadal at 35, and Djokovic at 34.

Legacy and recognitionEdit

Current and former professionalsEdit

Fellow top players, including David Ferrer, Tomáš Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Stan Wawrinka and Andy Roddick have all spoken about the dominance of the Big Three (and Murray until 2017) and the challenge they have faced in matching them.[144][145] Many former top professionals have also spoken about the topic, including Björn Borg, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and Goran Ivanišević.[9][146][147][148][149]

David Ferrer declared in 2013:

I think the top four, they are better. It's my opinion. But I am trying to win every match. The results, are there, no? I'm not making something up. It's very difficult for me to win a Grand Slam because there are the top four. At this time they are better than the other players.[150]

MediaEdit

Since 2010, when the Big Four increasingly began to dominate the tour as a group, many articles and reports have concentrated mainly on the members of the Big Four and their chances in upcoming tournaments, with smaller sections devoted to all other players.[151][152][153][154][155]

The presence of the Big Four is generally seen to have had a positive impact on tennis, making the sport more exciting and in turn attracting more attention. However, with all four members being European, this may have had a potentially negative effect on tennis popularity in North America compared to previous decades, when Americans were regularly at the top of men's tennis.[156][157] It has also been argued that the dominance of the Big Four has made the game predictable[158] or even boring.[159][160]

Alternative concepts and proposalsEdit

"Big Four"Edit

Even initially, some tennis commentators, including Murray himself,[161] spoke of a "Big Three" or "Trivalry",[162] due to Murray's lesser achievements than those three players.[163][164] In 2014, statistician Nate Silver labelled the group the 'Big Three and a Half'.[165] Murray's overall record against the Big Three is 29–56 (as of year end 2017). However, Murray features in the top ten on a number of Open Era records, including in quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals reached at the Majors, and is to date the only person in history to have won two gold medals in singles at the Olympic Games, and only the second player of the Open Era (after Andre Agassi), to have won a Grand Slam singles event, a Davis Cup, an Olympic singles gold, an ATP Final, and an ATP 1000 tournament, as well as reach world No. 1 in the ATP rankings. He reached world No. 1 after each of the Big Three,[166] though he had by that time spent 76 weeks as No. 2.[167] Murray's three Majors, two Olympic Games victories, ATP final and Davis Cup victories and his success in reaching the world no. 1 ranking, all since 2012, saw him listed more comfortably alongside the other three members during the mid-2010s.[56][168][169] His rise to reach the world No. 1 ranking in November 2016 and keep it to finish the year at the top position further helped arguments about him belonging in a "Big Four". However, given Murray's injury-ridden exit from the tennis elite after his 2016 triumphs, and the Big Three's continued dominance through year-end 2019, the "Big Four" label has been increasingly confined to the 2008–2017 period.[170][171][172]

"Big Five" suggestionsEdit

Occasionally, it was claimed that the current era in tennis could be seen as featuring a "Big Five", with Juan Martín del Potro,[173] Marin Čilić[174] and Stan Wawrinka[175][176][177][178] each suggested as additional expansions to the then Big Four. Wawrinka is the only active player outside the Big Four to have won multiple Slam titles with three (the same number as Murray), defeating Djokovic and Nadal on the way to the 2014 Australian Open title, Federer and Djokovic to win the 2015 French Open, and Djokovic to win the 2016 US Open. He also holds a positive win–loss record in Grand Slam singles finals, winning three of four (the loss being to Nadal in the final of the 2017 French Open), as opposed to Murray who has won only three from eleven (a 27.27% strike rate). However, Wawrinka has reached seven fewer Grand Slam singles finals, has won 13 fewer Masters titles than Murray, and has peaked at only number 3 in the world rankings. Wawrinka himself has downplayed the suggestion that he be included in an expanded "Big Five", describing Murray as "well ahead" of him.[179][180]

Golden eraEdit

Some, including Steffi Graf and John McEnroe, believe the presence of the Big Four has coincided with that of a new "Golden Era" in men's tennis since 2008, wherein depth, athleticism and quality have never been better.[citation needed] The era has been compared to that of Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Roy Emerson and John Newcombe throughout the 1960s and that of Björn Borg, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, and Ivan Lendl during the late 1970s and early 1980s.[181][182][183][184]

Novak Djokovic[185] and Roger Federer have both recognized the period as a golden era for tennis, though Federer tempered discussion around the all-time-greatest status of the Big Four in 2012, commenting:

I'd say no, but I don't know. Just because you look back maybe 15 years, then you have Sampras, Edberg, Becker, and Agassi, I don't know who else. Those guys weren't good or what? You look back, a further back, 20 years, and you have the Connors and the Lendls. Those weren't good either? I mean, I don't know. So for me I think that's respectful. It's just different times and definitely more athletic, there's no doubt about that. But then again we don't play doubles. We don't play mixed. Maybe we play less matches today because it's more taxing, but we do play less best of five set tennis than they used to play. You can't compare really, but we have somewhat of a golden era right now [emphasis added]. I feel that truly. It's nice to see Andy making his move at the Olympics, nice to see Novak having an absolutely ridiculous year last year, and then Rafa and myself still being around. It's definitely good times. Past that you still have great champions as well. It's very interesting at the top right now, and the depth I think has never been greater than right now. But then best ever? The four of us? That's a really difficult call.

— Roger Federer, Tennis.com (2012)[186]

The term Golden Era has also been applied to other famous eras in tennis history including the mid-1970s to 1980s,[187][188][189] and the 1920s to the 1930s.[190]

Prize moneyEdit

Djokovic, Federer, Nadal and Murray make up the top four prize money leaders of all time (not adjusted for inflation).[191]

Additionally, they collectively own the 10 biggest single season payouts ranging from $13.06 million to $21.15 million.

Notable matchesEdit

With a combined total of 148 matches played, the Big Three have played many notable matches against each other. The 2008 Wimbledon final, 2009 Australian Open final, 2012 Australian Open final, 2013 French Open semifinal, 2017 Australian Open final, 2018 Wimbledon semifinal and 2019 Wimbledon final are considered some of the greatest tennis matches of all time.[192][193][194][195] Djokovic saved double match points against Federer at the 2010 and 2011 US Open semifinals and the 2019 Wimbledon final,[196][197] whereas Federer ended Djokovic's 43-match winning streak in the 2011 French Open semifinals.[198] Nadal stopped Djokovic from completing a non-calendar year Grand Slam at the 2012 French Open and has delivered seven of Djokovic's defeats at the tournament, while Djokovic has delivered two of Nadal's three losses at Roland Garros and outlasted him in the longest major final in history at the 2012 Australian Open. Federer ended Nadal's Open Era record 81-match winning streak on clay at the 2007 Hamburg Masters, while Nadal ended Federer's Open Era record 65-match winning streak on grass and five-year dominance at Wimbledon in the 2008 final, and twice denied Federer the non-calendar year Grand Slam at the 2006 and 2007 French Opens.

  • 2005 French Open semifinal – Nadal defeated Federer in four sets on the way to his maiden Major title.
  • 2006 French Open final – Nadal thwarted Federer's bid to achieve the non-calendar year Grand Slam by triumphing in four sets. It was also Federer's first loss in a Grand Slam final.
  • 2006 Wimbledon final – Federer triumphed over Nadal in four sets to win his fourth consecutive Wimbledon title. This was Nadal's first loss at a Grand Slam final and Federer's first win over Nadal in a Grand Slam.
  • 2007 French Open final – Nadal denied Federer a second bid to complete the non-calendar year Grand Slam. This was only Federer's second loss in a Grand Slam final, and second to Nadal.
  • 2007 Wimbledon final – Federer defeated Nadal in five sets.
  • 2008 Wimbledon final – Nadal prevailed over Federer in five sets in the then-longest Wimbledon final all-time. Some consider this the greatest match in tennis history.
  • 2009 Australian Open final – Nadal beat Federer in five sets for his first hard court Major title.
  • 2010 US Open semifinal – Djokovic beat Federer in five sets while saving two match points in the final set.
  • 2011 French Open semifinal – Federer beat Djokovic in a close four-set match that could have gone either way. It was Djokovic's first loss of the season.
  • 2011 Wimbledon final – Djokovic defeated Nadal in four sets to win his first Wimbledon title. This was Djokovic's first win over Nadal in a Grand Slam, after losing in the first 5 attempts.
  • 2011 US Open semifinal – Djokovic beat Federer in five sets while saving two match points in the final set − a repeat of the previous year's match.
  • 2012 Australian Open final – Djokovic outlasted Nadal in five sets. This is the longest Grand Slam final ever, clocking in at 5 hours and 53 minutes.
  • 2012 French Open final – Nadal bested Djokovic in four sets to win his seventh French Open title, surpassing Björn Borg's record of six, and denying Djokovic's attempt at a non-calendar year Grand Slam.
  • 2013 French Open semifinal – Nadal beat Djokovic in five sets. It's one of two matches where Nadal was taken to the deciding set at the French Open.
  • 2014 Wimbledon final – Djokovic defeated Federer in five sets.
  • 2015 Wimbledon final – In a rematch of the previous final, Djokovic needed only four sets to down Federer.
  • 2017 Australian Open final – Federer beat Nadal in five sets to win his first Major in four-and-a-half years, and ending a six-match losing streak against Nadal at Majors.
  • 2018 Wimbledon semifinal – Djokovic, who was ranked world No. 22, defeated world No. 1 Nadal in five sets to reach the final. It was his biggest win in almost two years.
  • 2019 Wimbledon final – Djokovic prevailed over Federer in a fifth-set twelve-all tiebreaker, after saving two championship points in the final set, in the longest final in Wimbledon history.
  • 2020 French Open final – Nadal defeated Djokovic in straight sets to win his 13th French Open and 20th Grand Slam title.
  • 2021 French Open semifinal – Djokovic defeated Nadal in four brutal sets, delivering Nadal's third-ever loss at the French Open.

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ In ATP Tour and Grand Slam main draw matches, Summer Olympics, Davis Cup and Laver Cup; Open Era tennis records
  2. ^ Not held due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  3. ^ Held as Hamburg Masters until 2008, and Madrid Masters 2009–present.
  4. ^ Held as Madrid Masters from 2002 to 2008, and Shanghai Masters 2009–present.

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