US Open 2019: 'Big Three' aim to complete another three-year slam sweep

By Sports Desk August 24, 2019

There stood Roger Federer, already among the greats and with a fifth straight US Open title secured.

It was 2008 and the Swiss star had just passed Roy Emerson on the all-time list of major winners, securing his 13th and continuing his dominance at Flushing Meadows with a straight-sets victory over Andy Murray in the final.

Novak Djokovic had won his first grand slam in Melbourne at the start of the year and Rafael Nadal was still unbeaten at Roland Garros, the Spaniard then going on to clinch his first Wimbledon title.

It marked the third straight year in which the 'Big Three' had swept the grand slams, a feat they are looking to repeat 11 years later.

How little has changed entering the 2019 US Open, which starts on Monday.

Federer (three), Nadal (four) and Djokovic (four) have won the past 11 majors and still we wait for the 'Next Gen' to break through as the three greatest male players of all-time continue to dominate.

Murray's career-interrupting hip injury reduced the 'Big Four' to the 'Big Three' and there is no sign of anyone taking the three-time grand slam champion's place of being a consistent challenger at majors.

The years 2006 to 2008 marked the years of Federer and Nadal, and 2018-19 have been Djokovic's. The Serbian could finish this year having won three grand slams in a season.

In between, anticipated contenders have come and gone (Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic are 28) or come and been consistent without breaking through (Kei Nishikori is 29).

Stan Wawrinka was a regular star and won three grand slams before his injury woes, while Marin Cilic and Juan Martin del Potro took their chances at Flushing Meadows in 2014 and 2009 respectively.

Another so-called 'Next Gen' – the likes of David Goffin (28) and Jack Sock (26) – has been replaced, while Dominic Thiem (25) looks the likeliest challenger to Nadal at Roland Garros.

Now emerges another group in Daniil Medvedev (23), Alexander Zverev (22), Stefanos Tsitsipas (21), Karen Khachanov (23) and Borna Coric (22).

Yet it remains hard to see the final verdict on 2019 not simply echoing that of 2008 as the 'Big Three' bid to complete another major sweep.

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    The 34-year-old, who has claimed 13 ATP Tour titles, has been struggling with a back issue since June 2018 and revealed a painful hip injury was hampering after his first-round exit at this year's US Open.

    In a video posted to his official Twitter account, Berdych confirmed he will be making an announcement but provided no detail on the specifics.

    "Hi guys, if you want a little surprise just don't watch any media or social networks, but I know it is impossible these days. I know, these little mistakes happen," said Berdych.

    "I had it planned as a little surprise on Saturday where I'm going to be in London. But now it's not even possible because it is all over [the news], but it's fine. More information is going to come on Saturday."

    Berdych has no grand slam titles to his name but reached the final of Wimbledon in 2010. He twice made the last four at the Australian Open (2014 and 2015) and reached the semi-finals at French Open in 2010 and the US Open in 2012.

  • Djokovic hails 'unbelievable' Thiem display Djokovic hails 'unbelievable' Thiem display

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    "I thought he deserved to win. He just played very courageous tennis and just smacking the ball, he went for broke, the entire match he played the same way he played the last point," the Serbian 16-time grand slam champion told a news conference.

    "I mean, I have to put my hat down and congratulate him because he just played a great match."

    Djokovic added: "I don't think I've experienced too many matches like this where my opponent just goes for every single shot.

    "I mean, he was unbelievable, in some stages it was just incredible that he was just literally smacking the ball as hard as he can and it was going in.

    "Of course his level is super high, today was unbelievable, but whether he can keep that up every match, if he does, chapeau, there's not much you can say, for sure he's playing great tennis."

  • Thiem 'in the zone' during unforgettable Djokovic win Thiem 'in the zone' during unforgettable Djokovic win

    Dominic Thiem said he was "in the zone" during his thrilling ATP Finals win over Novak Djokovic on Tuesday.

    The Austrian booked his spot in the semi-finals in London by overcoming Djokovic 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 7-6 (7-5) at the O2 Arena.

    Thiem, who beat Roger Federer in Group Bjorn Borg on Sunday, said it was an unforgettable performance.

    "I was in the zone from the first point on," he said in an on-court interview.

    "I served for the match at 6-5 in the third set, but obviously I was playing the best returner in the game so I didn't worry too much, I was focusing on the tie-break and coming back from 4-1, a little bit of luck here and there.

    "But, in general, it was just unbelievable and a match that I will probably never forget."

    Thiem hit 51 winners during his win, coming from 4-1 down in the third-set tie-break to edge past Djokovic.

    The 26-year-old was delighted with his performance and said it was the level required to beat the 16-time grand slam champion.

    "This was really one of these very special matches that I practised all my life for, what I practised all my childhood for, a really epic one in front of an amazing atmosphere, beating a real legend of our game," Thiem said.

    "I couldn't be happier and also I qualified for the semi-finals which is the best."

    He added: "I was playing Novak, who is in great shape, who is probably the best player in the world right now.

    "I had to do something special and luckily a lot of these balls and these winners went into the court."

    Thiem will face Italian Matteo Berrettini in his final match in the group on Thursday.

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