AFTER the 2019 French Open final, champion Rafael Nadal, who just beat Dominic Thiem in four sets after losing the first set, consoled the Austrian and said he’s confident that someday the 27-year-old will soon lift his own grand slam trophy.
Sixteen months later, that finally came true in the Covid-19 shortened season as Thiem won the US Open, coming back from being two sets down to another youngster Alexander Zverev, becoming the first champion outside of the Big 3—Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic—since 2017. If you want to go further, he’s the first first-time champion since Marin Cilic, who also won the US Open in 2014.
I guess, I am using the word youngster to describe Thiem loosely as at 27, he’s one of the oldest grand slam champions and playing in an era dominated by the big three is the reason.
Nadal won his first major at 19, Novak at 20 and Federer at 21, and the three have pretty much locked out the rest during their dominance. Of course, Nadal and Federer missed out this year and Djokovic was infamously disqualified in the fourth round and you could say that may have played a factor.
But for me, I think not. Thiem has faced and beaten them. He ended Djokovic’s undefeated run in the French Open last year, beat Nadal in the Australian Open this year and has also won his last three meetings with Federer. So I guess, Big Three or not, this was his time.
And I think Federer fans hope Thiem will continue to collect major titles once the Swiss Master is retired because that would prevent the Serb (Djokovic) from adding to his tally. Before Covid-19, fans assumed this was going to be Federer’s final year on tour as some expected him to retire after the Tokyo Olympics but as we all know, all plans this year have been thrown out the window.
To be honest, I’m glad too that there’s another new name added to the list of grand slam champions. If you check the list of men’s grand slam winners stretching over a decade, it’s like a memorization exercise, where you say the names over and over again until you have them locked in your mind.
That’s how dominant the big three have been in the past decade and I hope Dominic’s first grand slam ushers in another era where we can have four grand slam winners in a calendar year.