In the tennis world, the big four refers to the era when Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Andy Murray dominated the tennis scene. These four players battled it out, and never once was there a clear winner throughout the years of their rule.
Each of these players had their own years of success, and they kept each other in check. Rafael Nadal would take down Roger Federer before being handed a defeat by Novak Djokovic. Not long after, Andy Murray would take down Novak Djokovic, and this cycle continued.
There was never a clear, definite winner whenever two of the big four matched up. All that could be certain was that the match would be one of the most entertaining of that tournament.
So, with the retirement of Andy Murray coming up, and Roger Federer nearing his forties, the question must be asked: which players will become the next big four?
There are several candidates, but in the end, only four can take the top.
The big four didn’t come to the ATP Tour in an instant. It was a gradual procession of dominance from each of the four players. The first of the four was Roger Federer, who began his reign in 2004.
After winning Wimbledon in 2003 and the Australian Open in 2004, Roger Federer became world number one.
After him came Rafael Nadal, who dethroned Roger Federer after winning Roland-Garros in 2005.
Together, the two occupied the number-one spot for more than four years. Then came Novak Djokovic.
During his time as a rookie, Novak Djokovic proved troublesome to both Federer and Nadal starting out around 2007.
The same went for Andy Murray as he began to challenge the throne in 2009. Around 2011, the dominance of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer waned, and the big four soon came into light. Here, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer all began to win separate tournaments.
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer tied with five year-end number-one finishes, Nadal had four year-end number-one finishes, and Murray had one.
The four have won 53 of the past 60 Grand Slams majors starting from the 2004 Australian Open to the 2018 U.S. Open and have won 12 of the last 16 Nitto ATP Finals.
At times, however, people questioned Murray’s relevance in the big four and asked whether or not Stanislas Wawrinka should have been included.
These speculations were dropped after Wawrinka stated he wasn’t as consistent during this time period as Andy.
Andy Murray has struggled to even make it into the top one hundred, and Zverev has been showing a consistent performance on the tour, keeping a top-five ranking since last year.
This has proven substantially important to Alexander, as he is one of the only younger players who can actually compete against names like Federer and Nadal.
So, who’s going to take the place of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, and Murray? While Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic have a few more years left on the tour before they make their departure, fans and bettors alike are beginning to wonder which new faces are going to start dominating the tennis scene.
There are several names that can take over the spots that the big four once held. Each of these names has proven a certain dominance in their own field and has the talent to keep their grip on the ATP tour.
Note: this list will have more than four players since there are endless possibilities for the big four. However, my guess is that the big four will come from this list of players.
Borna Coric is one of the newest talents and hails from Croatia. With an unstoppable baseline and the speed of a gazelle, this 22-year-old is going to be able to prove a worthy foe for the future of men’s tennis.
Currently, Coric has one of the best backhands in the game both offensively and defensively. The man is able to fight off foes left and right with his backhand, and unlike most players, it’s the main weapon in his game and what makes him so strong.
Combine that with his infamously fast later movements, and Borna Coric can wear out any player from the baseline until he needs to strike.
If you want to compare Borna Coric to a player of the former big four, he would be close to Novak Djokovic since Coric’s defense is near impeccable and he can take over a point with the stroke of just one backhand.
I won’t be surprised if Borna Coric shows up with some pretty big wins for the 2019 season and a title to wrap it up. This man has big things ahead of him.
Known as the “Greek Freak,” this man has rocketed to fame, and he’s only getting better with every passing second. This man knows how to entertain a crowd while also outputting strong results that add to his legacy.
In 2018, he took down names such as Novak Djokovic, Kevin Anderson, and Alexander Zverev, an achievement that most players won’t even reach. Yet Stefanos Tsitsipas achieved this at twenty years old.
His playstyle is more of an aggressive all-courter that utilizes court movement to his advantage.
His signature shot is his one-handed backhand that he can carve angles with which usually lead to him going onto the offense.
However, if he goes onto defense, he can easily use a slice or a felt-up backhand to get himself out of trouble. Plus, with speed that rivals Coric’s, Stefanos isn’t an easy target when on the run.
Despite being great at offense and defense, Stefanos likes to play offense most of the time.
He isn’t afraid of playing out the point past ten rallies as long as he can look for that one offensive opportunity that will lead to him finishing the point at net.
There’s also the level of cockiness that Stefanos brings to the court that makes you want to watch him. Stefanos is a great player, and he knows it. This confidence will bode well for him in the future. He’s already taken down some of the best.
Now, it’s time for him to take his spot as one of the best.
The Aussie Alex de Minaur is looking to make a real impact after having a great 2018. Since going pro in 2015, Alex de Minaur has steadily improved his results and had a magical 2018 with deep runs in tournaments throughout the year.
He started it with a semifinal run at Brisbane, eventually losing to Ryan Harrison in three sets. The next tournament was in Sydney, and here, de Minaur made it to the finals, shocking fans all over the world considering he took down four players in the top fifty before falling to Daniil Medvedev in the finals.
He then made it to the finals of the Citi Open, taking down names like Hyeon Chung and Andrey Rublev to face Alex Zverev. He would go on to lose, but the run would prove enough momentum to propel Alex de Minaur into yet another final at the Next Gen ATP Finals.
This Aussie has seen so much success in 2018, and he’s already started 2019 off great with his first ATP title at Sydney, redeeming himself from 2018’s final loss. Also, with a strong Australian Open run, we’re excited to see what Alex de Minaur holds for the future.
His playstyle revolves around his speed. Without his speed, Alex de Minaur wouldn’t be where he is.
Right now, de Minaur is possibly the fastest on the tour with court coverage unlike anyone else.
Combine that with high tennis IQ and a wide range of shots that are constantly being improved, and Alex de Minaur is projected to become one of the best on the tour in the next few years.
It’s hard to go on the offensive versus this Australian superstar because he’ll simply run down your shot and put you in an uncomfortable position.
This gives him space to attack with a flat forehand and a relatively tough backhand. Add on a high-percentage fast-paced serve, and you have a well-rounded player that is comfortable to do what he wants and has the discipline to craft a well-oriented game that will outlast even the best.
This Australian is far more mature than most of the current tennis stars on the rise, yet he’s one of the youngest. This gives him a high potential to break the top ten in 2019, and from there, possibly the top five.
This Canadian power-hitter is one with tremendous potential but little discipline. While he may have a huge heart and an unrelenting passion for the game, Denis has a long way to go before he can utilize all of the power he has in his hands.
We got a glimpse of that power when he took down Rafael Nadal at the Rogers Cup as he hit shot after shot, and Rafael Nadal couldn’t find a counter. This is prime Denis, and it’s something that we haven’t seen yet but will have a chance to see in 2019.
When he’s playing well, he can be a threat to anyone. In 2018, he placed deep in tournaments in Del Ray Beach, Miami Open, Madrid, and Tokyo. However, he wasn’t able to convert those semifinal matches into finalist appearances, and that’s something this nineteen-year-old Canadian can hope to achieve for this season.
With a carefree attitude and some of the biggest forehands and backhands on the tour, Shapovalov can be compared to a mix of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Andy Murray with a little bit of Benoit Paire mixed in there as well.
Thus, Denis Shapovalov’s huge forehands and backhands bode well for him whenever he has the discipline to make them, and his serve is equally powerful. As Denis matures, he’ll eventually pull himself into the top ten and hopefully show us why Canada is one of the best countries when it comes to tennis.
After all, he’s only nineteen years old and the youngest player on this list. He has time.
This German really took over the ATP Tour after turning pro in 2013 at only the age of sixteen. From the moment he turned pro, Zverev was making money moves left and right. He beat his first top one hundred opponent months after winning the 2014 boys Australian Open title.
Then, at seventeen years old, he made his first ATP semifinal, something rarely seen on the pro tour. During that time, he took down top-twenty player at the time, Mikhail Youzhny. In 2015, two years after his official appearance into the professional scene, Alexander Zverev was the youngest player ranked in the top one hundred at around eighteen years of age.
In 2016, Alexander Zverev began to make his move into the top fifty as he upset player after player, taking down Marin Cilic at the Open Sud de France and Roger Federer at the Halle Open.
However, it was at St. Petersburg that Alexander Zverev began to shine.
He took down Berdych in the semis and beat Stanislas Wawrinka in the final, who was number three in the world at the time. This successful year brought Zverev into the top 50 of the ATP Tour, where he stayed in the 20s for the rest of the season.
2017 followed with even better results. During the 2017 season, Zverev won five titles, and two of them were Masters 1000 titles, the best of the best when it came to tournaments other than the Grand Slams.
He accumulated wins against Novak Djokovic, Stanislas Wawrinka, and Roger Federer yet again and ended as the youngest player in the top ten.
2018 saw the German win four more titles, but this year, he won perhaps the biggest tile of his career, the Nitto ATP Finals.
He also managed to stack wins over Nick Kyrgios, David Ferrer, John Isner, and Dominic Thiem during his 2018 run, making it his most dominant yet.
Zverev’s playstyle consists of hard-hitting backhands and high-spin forehands. Add on a fast and precise serve, and you have what encompasses Zverev: a hard-hitting all-courter who can read your shots before you hit them.
Like Coric, Zverev’s backhand is incredibly powerful, as he spends a large portion of his loading time reeling back his hands to coil power from the waist. He uses this to either hold off opponents or slowly gain an edge. He’s done both.
With the ability to wear people down from the baseline thanks to his ability to read the ball extremely well and a strong backhand that is hard to rally against, Zverev has converted his talent into success in the form of titles ranging from Madrid to the Nitto ATP finals.
I’m excited to see what he holds for the future. At twenty-one years of age, Alexander Zverev is the youngest player in the top ten right now, and if he keeps up the results he’s been giving us, then in the future, he’ll be the next star player of the ATP Tour.
The big four gave us some incredible moments. We laughed, we cried, and we cheered, but most importantly, we made memories.
Those who were lucky enough to experience the big four’s era of dominance to its fullest will never forget the exciting matches each of those players brought. But with the big four fading, it’s time to look to the new generation of players and see which ones are going to stand out from the rest.
And we’ve compiled a list of some of the best prospects so that you can be prepared to see their rise on the ATP Tour.
There’s Borna Coric, a defensive player that wears out his opponent from the baseline thanks to his huge backhand.
There’s Alex de Minaur, a high-IQ tennis player whose speed will help him hold onto the motto “one more ball.”
You have Stefanos Tsitsipas, a Greek superstar whose cunning arrogance gives him an edge that no other player has.
Next to him is Denis Shapovalov, a gutsy nineteen-year-old Canadian tennis player whose fearlessness will be a high-return investment to him as he matures.
And finally, we have Alexander Zverev, an embodiment of talent, hard work, and smarts that has led to him accumulating several titles over the past two years. The best part is that he’s only twenty-one years old.
All of these players have bright futures ahead of them, and they’re on the path to success thanks to their work ethic and extreme ability to play on one aspect of the tennis spectrum.
Hopefully, as time progresses, we’ll see these players craft a new legacy in the game of tennis.
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