The trio has ended the year as the three top-ranked players in mens' tennis for the seventh time. Remarkably, their run at the top started back in 2007.
The trio has won a collective 51 Grand Slams. The last time another player won a slam was Stan Wawrinka’s victory at the 2016 US Open.
Djokovic, who ended the year atop the rankings after winning both Wimbledon and the US Open, is 31 years old. Nadal (32) was in second place after winning his 11th French Open, with the ageless Federer (37) taking the Australian Open and finishing a close third behind Nadal.
There were seven changes on the leaderboard throughout the year with all three taking the top position at some stage.
— ATP Tour (@atptour) November 26, 2018
Is the end of the incredible Federer/Nadal/Djokovic era in sight?
Tennis’ big three this year comprised the same players who occupied the top three spots between 2007-11 and also 2014.
After Djokovic looked fatigued and unmotivated and saw his year-end ranking drop to #12 last year, he was back with a vengeance in 2018.
Both Federer (who fell to #16) and Nadal (#9) seemed to be heading into the twilights of their respective careers in 2016, before they recaptured their dominant form of old.
The aesthetic perfection of Federer, the incredible fight and stamina of Nadal and Djokovic’s spectacular all-court game has made them enduring though very different champions. There is a growing school of thought, however, that their dominance is finally on the verge of being meaningfully challenged.
Rafael Nadal’s uncle and former coach, Toni Nadal, is one observer predicting the trio could finally be overtaken by the younger generation in 2019. He has written that he finds it difficult to see Federer winning another slam, though he concedes Federer has “repeatedly” surprised him before.
Toni Nadal believes young guns Alexander Zverev and Karen Khachanov are the players that will challenge the big three’s dominance as soon as next year.
Khachanov (22) toppled Djokovic on his way to the Paris Masters earlier this year and had fourth-round showings at the French Open and Wimbledon.
For the 21-year-old Zverev, his best result in Grand Slams was a quarter-final appearance at the French Open. Former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash previously told The CEO Magazine that Zverev was one of the only players he could see defeating Nadal.
It's victory for Alexander Zverev!
He defeats world number one Novak Djokovic 6-4 6-3 in London to take a first season-ending title.
— BBC Tennis (@bbctennis) November 18, 2018
Alexander Zverev is considered the next likely tennis grand slam winner
Zverev also bested both Federer and Djokovic en route to a title at the ATP Finals in London. By defeating Federer in the final, he denied the Swiss champion his 100th career title.
Tennis legend Boris Becker, who also coached Djokovic at one stage, termed Zverev’s victory “a moment which the whole tennis world has been waiting for.”
Former British Number 1 Greg Rusedski said Djokovic is likely to enter all four grand slams next year as favourite, but added that Zverev and Khachanov could break through in 2019.
“We have been waiting a few years for one of these youngsters to make a breakthrough and now we are seeing some evidence that two guys are knocking hard on the door,” he told Tennis 365.
“Sometimes young players need a moment to convince themselves that they can play at the top level and Zverev has had a few of those moments in 2018, so we can expect a lot more from him now.”
Header image credit: Carine06