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Which Players Could Potentially Break into the Men’s Top 3

by Jonas Eriksson

The Big Three of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Rafael Nadal have dominated tennis since 2003. Currently, Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer at ranked 1, 2, and, 3, respectively, and have in fact ended 7 of the past 12 years in the top 3 spots. Which players could potentially break into the men’s top 3?

Let’s look at the various players that could take a more permanent position among the world’s top three positions. Judging by the Wimbledon semi-final line-up, I am not sure someone will be able to dethrone them soon, but it is fun to discuss which players could potentially break into the men’s top 3.

Which Players Could Potentially Break into the Men’s Top 3 – Dominic Thiem


Thiem looks ready to succeed any of the Big Three when they retire or drop their level. He made a case in this year’s French Open semis, where he ended Djokovic’s year-long 26-match Grand Slam winning streak. Thiem couldn’t quite overcome clay court king Nadal in the final, but the world number 4 and Babolat brand ambassador is certainly knocking on the door of the top three.

Which Players Could Potentially Break into the Men’s Top 3 – Alexander Zverev


Zverev is the only player aside from Djokovic, Federer, Nadal, and Andy Murray with three Masters trophies. The world number 5 has also beaten Federer, outlasting him in the semis at the 2016 Halle Open. He nearly upset Nadal, too, in the 4th round of the 2016 Indian Wells Masters. In last year’s ATP Finals, Zverev beat world number 1 Djokovic in the final in straight sets. Afterward, Djokovic noted the similarities in his and Zverev’s careers. “There’s a lot of similarities in terms of the trajectory of professional tennis, in our careers,” Djokovic pointed out. 2019 has been a tough year for Zverev though and he has struggled to produce the results needed to stay at the top five positions in the rankings. Can he re-charge for the last grand slam of the year?

Which Players Could Potentially Break into the Men’s Top 3 – Kei Nishikori


In 2014, we hailed Nishikori as a rising star with his quick feet and clean ball-striking. 5 years and 12 career titles later, he is one of the best players on the tour, and currently ranked 7 in the world. CNBC claims that Nishikori was the first Asian man to reach a Grand Slam final at the 2014 US Open. He could have been the first Asian man in the Open era to win a Slam had he beaten Marin Cilic. That US Open run, though, was notable, as Nishikori beat an in-form Djokovic in the semis. Nishikori also has multiple wins over Federer, the most recent coming in 2018, with bwin Tennis reporting that Nishikori beat the Swiss maestro at the ATP Finals in London. Unfortunately, he was unable to follow that victory at the quarterfinal stage of Wimbledon this year, losing to Federer in four sets. Despite the defeat, his performance at The Championship showed how he can compete and challenge the top 3 when he is physically fit.

Which Players Could Potentially Break into the Men’s Top 3 – Stefanos Tsitsipas


Tsitsipas finally entered the top 10 this year after winning the Open 13 in February and then making the final of the Dubai Tennis Championships that same month. The young player was discovered by famed coach Patrick Mouratoglou (currently the coach of Serena Williams) who saw his potential. “I don’t see any limit for him,” Mouratoglou said about Tsitsipas last year when he was still the 15th ranked player in the world. A year later, the young man has climbed to number 6 and is proving the coach right.

Which Players Could Potentially Break into the Men’s Top 3 – Felix Auger-Alassime

The Canadian 18-year-old has a breakthrough year in 2019 and is surely destined for bigger things. The question is only how big? He sure has the game to become a future world number one, but we have said and thought so about other players before so he will need to show consistent growth in his game over the coming couple of years to make his talent justice.

Which Players Could Potentially Break into the Men’s Top 3 – Matteo Berrettini 

The Italian tennis ball murderer was trashed by Roger Federer in this year’s Wimbledon, but won the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart before and has a game that works on all surfaces topped up by a massive serve. It will be interesting to see if he can keep progressing and move past the Italian number one Fabio Fognini in the rankings (who is currently in the top ten).

It is just a matter of time before someone else breaks into the top three. These players all have the potential to become future champions (possibly not Nishikori) and knock Djokovic, Federer, and Nadal out of their exclusive positions.

Image credit featured image: ESPN.com

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Simon July 13, 2019 - 08:14

No standout players apart from maybe Tsitsipas. A couple of years ago it looked as if Rublev, Wong, Edmund and Shapovalov were going to come through and challenge, but not happened yet.

With Tsitsipas it’s extremely encouraging to see a single handed backhand player coming through. I was worried that Fed would be the last one, with double handed baseline grinders all that’s left. But single handers seem to have more variety to their play and are more all Court players. The game needs that variety.

Magnus July 15, 2019 - 12:02

None really. They all look like school kids in comparison. Impressive in a few tournaments (excluding GS) but that’s it. Sad for tennis when Big Three retire.

Tennisnerd July 17, 2019 - 10:28

Hej Magnus,
I agree. It does look a bit bad at the moment for the “next gen”. Hope your elbow heals soon! Regards / Jonas

PS. If you feel like my advice is really useful, please consider becoming a patron for $2 at patreon.com/tennisnerd DS.

Tennisnerd July 20, 2019 - 22:35

Yes, when the big three retire it will be a tough day!

Callen July 15, 2019 - 22:02

When Tsitsipas plays to the best of his ability he can beat the big 3. He has a good game and can be very smart. For him it is just about being able to do that consistently, which is what he is struggling with right now.

laurean July 16, 2019 - 02:04

I would say Zverev, once the mess at home settles down and he can focus again on tennis. Dimitrov was very promising, but somehow he faded away… Tsitsipas if he can mature and keep his motivation and focus high

Lucas July 17, 2019 - 05:48

None, they will be the big 3 until hey retire.


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