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The Big Three, Carlos Alcaraz and the Forgotten Kids of the Nineties

For the past two decades, the world of men’s tennis has witnessed an extraordinary reign of dominance by the holy trinity: Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Rafael Nadal.

At the time of writing, on the first day of Wimbledon 2023, those three have won an insane 65 Grand Slams between them stretching back to Federer’s first Wimbledon in 2003. That’s all the way back to the era of Agassi and Sampras.

In fact, up until Dominic Thiem’s US Open win in 2020 no player born in the 1990’s had managed to win a Slam. Not one! That’s an entire generation of players whose chances of tennis superstardom have been wiped out by the big three’s supremacy.

Courtesy of the ATP here’s the full list of winners in case there was any doubt:

2023French OpenNovak Djokovic
2023Australian OpenNovak Djokovic
2022U.S. OpenCarlos Alcaraz
2022WimbledonNovak Djokovic
2022French OpenRafael Nadal
2022Australian OpenRafael Nadal
2021U.S. OpenDaniil Medvedev
2021WimbledonNovak Djokovic
2021French OpenNovak Djokovic
2021Australian OpenNovak Djokovic
2020French OpenRafael Nadal
2020U.S. OpenDominic Thiem
2020Australian OpenNovak Djokovic
2019U.S. OpenRafael Nadal
2019WimbledonNovak Djokovic
2019French OpenRafael Nadal
2019Australian OpenNovak Djokovic
2018U.S. OpenNovak Djokovic
2018WimbledonNovak Djokovic
2018French OpenRafael Nadal
2018Australian OpenRoger Federer
2017U.S. OpenRafael Nadal
2017WimbledonRoger Federer
2017French OpenRafael Nadal
2017Australian OpenRoger Federer
2016U.S. OpenStan Wawrinka
2016WimbledonAndy Murray
2016French OpenNovak Djokovic
2016Australian OpenNovak Djokovic
2015U.S. OpenNovak Djokovic
2015WimbledonNovak Djokovic
2015French OpenStan Wawrinka
2015Australian OpenNovak Djokovic
2014U.S. OpenMarin C ilic
2014WimbledonNovak Djokovic
2014French OpenRafael Nadal
2014Australian OpenStan Wawrinka
2013U.S. OpenRafael Nadal
2013WimbledonAndy Murray
2013French OpenRafael Nadal
2013Australian OpenNovak Djokovic
2012U.S. OpenAndy Murray
2012WimbledonRoger Federer
2012French OpenRafael Nadal
2012Australian OpenNovak Djokovic
2011U.S. OpenNovak Djokovic
2011WimbledonNovak Djokovic
2011French OpenRafael Nadal
2011Australian OpenNovak Djokovic
2010U.S. OpenRafael Nadal
2010WimbledonRafael Nadal
2010French OpenRafael Nadal
2010Australian OpenRoger Federer
2009U.S. OpenJuan Martin del Potro
2009WimbledonRoger Federer
2009French OpenRoger Federer
2009Australian OpenRafael Nadal
2008U.S. OpenRoger Federer
2008WimbledonRafael Nadal
2008French OpenRafael Nadal
2008Australian OpenNovak Djokovic
2007U.S. OpenRoger Federer
2007WimbledonRoger Federer
2007French OpenRafael Nadal
2007Australian OpenRoger Federer
2006U.S. OpenRoger Federer
2006WimbledonRoger Federer
2006French OpenRafael Nadal
2006Australian OpenRoger Federer
2005U.S. OpenRoger Federer
2005WimbledonRoger Federer
2005French OpenRafael Nadal
2005Australian OpenMarat Safin
2004U.S. OpenRoger Federer
2004WimbledonRoger Federer
2004French OpenGaston Gaudio
2004Australian OpenRoger Federer
2003U.S. OpenAndy Roddick
2003WimbledonRoger Federer
2003French OpenJuan Carlos Ferrero
2003Australian OpenAndre Agassi

While Daniil Medvedev followed Thiem’s win with victory at Flushing Meadows the following year, if any casual observer thought that might signal a changing of fortunes for the 90s crowd they were wrong. Djokovic and Nadal have won 9 of the last 11 Slams.

Which is why it’s natural to show some caution when looking at the arrival of Carlos Alcaraz. 

Born on May 5, 2003, in El Palmar, Spain, Alcaraz has quickly captured the imagination. At just 19 years old, he became the youngest man to top the ATP singles ranking when he clinched the 2022 US Open, defeating Casper Ruud.

After turning pro at just 16 he won three titles on the ITF tour and four ATP Challengers before breaking into the top 100 and went on to win his first ATP title at the 2021 Croatia Open.

Alcaraz’s aggressive baseline style, powerful forehand, and tenacious fighting spirit have earned him comparisons to his idol, Rafael Nadal. 

And as this year’s Wimbledon Championships begin Alcaraz starts as top seed. But the bookies still haven’t given up on the old guard, making Djokovic favourite to retain his title and add to the two Slams he’s already picked up this year. 

By the end of the next two weeks we should have a clearer idea whether Alcaraz’s arrival is yet another false dawn or finally evidence that the Big Three – or Big Two since Fed’s departure – are on their way out.

But whichever way it swings spare a thought for those nineties kids, heading into their thirties now, ever denied their moment in the spotlight.

If you’re just starting your own journey towards tennis superstardom be sure to check out our guide to the best tennis rackets out there for beginners or the best junior rackets. Or if you’re a bit further along why not take a look at our best rackets for advanced players.

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