After Federer lost to Cilic in the semi-finals of the US Open, he was asked whether the Big Four was over. Federer brushed off the question: “You said the same thing in Australia, everybody, and then we know what happened at the French Open final, Wimbledon final. I don’t think so.” However, there is good reason to sound the Big Four’s death knell. In fact, the Big Four has never really existed, and it definitely will not begin to flourish in the future.
For starters, we should define the Big Four’s reign. Starting with the 2005 French Open, the so-called Big Four—Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray—have won 36 of the 39 Grand Slam finals and both Men’s Singles Olympic gold medals (2008, 2012). However, when one looks closely at the numbers, for a while the Big Four was only the Big Two. Starting with the 2005 French Open, and up until the end of 2007, Federer and Nadal won every Grand Slam. Nadal won every French Open, and Federer won every Aussie, Wimbledon and U.S. In 2008, Novak Djokovic finally made his breakthrough by winning in Australia. However, after that, it was back to the Federer-Nadal show for another ten Grand Slams. Not until 2011 did another somebody in the “Big Four” other than Nadal or Federer win a grand slam.
Since the end of the 2010, Federer has only won one major – Wimbledon in 2012. The main reason Federer wants to believe the “Big Four” still exists is because he wants to believe that he is still in it. However, the greatest tennis player the world has ever seen, I hate to say it, is done for. Wimbledon, of course, is his best shot to get number 18, but I don’t see it happening. 2011 was when Djokovic stopped taking a back seat to the Big Two. He won every Grand Slam but the French, which went to Nadal. That year, he finally became world No. 1. He’s won three more majors since then, one in each year.
I am sure you have noticed that Andy Murray has not been mentioned much, and it is because he did not win a Grand Slam until the end of 2012 (the U.S. Open). He also won the Olympic Gold medal in London that year on grass, and then followed it up by winning Wimbledon in 2013. Nonetheless, I think it is a stretch to put him in the same category as the other three. He has never been No. 1 in the world, and has only won two Grand Slams. Federer has 17, Nadal 14, and Djokovic 7. He is not in their league.
2014 was the breakthrough year for other players. Wawrinka took home the Australian Open, and Cilic the U.S. Nadal is consistently plagued with injury, and has missed numerous Grand Slams in the past few years. He might win the French Open for two more years or so, but I cannot see him doing much else. Djokovic will continue to be the best player in the world, most likely winning one or two Grand Slams for the next few years. Who knows, he may he even win at Roland Garros and complete the Career Grand Slam? However, Djokovic is getting older. He turned 27 this May, and he recently got married. He has a baby on the way, and he told the press that his priorities have changed: “My priorities, my family, my wife, my future kid. You know, tennis is not definitely not number one anymore.”
There is a new set of talent on the rise. Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, only 23, finally had a breakthrough year. He made it to the Quarterfinals down in Australia, and he got to his first major semis at Wimbledon. Another 23-year old to look out for is Milos Raonic. He made it to at least the fourth round of each Grand Slam this year, and even got to the Wimbledon semi-finals. Kei Nishikori, 24, and Marin Cilic, 25, the two U.S. Open finalists, will try to carry their momentum into next year, and I would not be surprised if they made some noise either. My dark horse is Nick Kyrgios. He’s only nineteen, but he shocked the world when he beat Nadal in the fourth round of Wimbledon this year. He’s got some growing to do, as shown by his emotional breakdown against Tommy Robredo in the third round at Flushing Meadows, but the sky is his limit.
In reality, the Big Four never existed. Andy Murray should be happy to even be grouped with the likes of the other three. And Federer, plain and simple, is too old now. He does not have what it takes anymore. Nadal is too hurt. He can no longer sustain his body for a whole year. Djokovic will be around a few more years, but there is a group of youngsters eyeing that No. 1 spot. The “Big Four” never did exist, and if it did, it’s over now.