Tennis’ Big Three at the US Open

If you’re a sports enthusiast, the term “big three” most likely immediately draws your thinking to basketball. When Lebron James announced back in July 2010 that he would bring his talents to south beach, the Miami Heat all of a sudden had a roster filled with him and fellow all-stars Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. The amalgamation was formed with the intention of winning championships, and each player took a minor pay cut in order to form the team. The trio was quickly deemed “the big three.” Since then, NBA writers have made an effort to attribute this moniker to other teams. Until Ray Allen’s recent free agency transition, the Boston Celtics had a veteran big three consisting of him, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce (Don’t fret, Rajon Rondo will take Allen’s place). The Oklahoma City Thunder have their own big three in Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook. The Los Angeles Lakers, thanks to some stellar offseason moves, may even have a big four in Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. Other teams have their own. Yet those who follow the NBA may be surprised to know that tennis has its own big three. On the men’s side, there have been three players that have simply been dominating the tour for the last five years: Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. With the U.S. Open only weeks away, tennis fans the world over are eager to see how well these players will fare in New York this year.

Novak Djokovic

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Djokovic is the reigning victor from last year. He took out Nadal in four relatively brisk sets. Back then, Djokovic was in the midst of playing some of the best tennis any observer of the game has ever seen. Even Pete Sampras, no slouch on the court himself, told reporters that Djokovic’s 2011 season was the best he had seen in his lifetime. In 2011, Djokovic played to the jaw-dropping record of 70-6, and won three majors, including the Open. His play has slowed a little bit in 2012, but the Serbian phenom continues to impress. Djokovic’s powerful play serves him well on hardcourt surfaces like the one at the Open, so the chances that he will repeat are not only good, but likely.

Roger Federer

Roger Federer

A list compiled by tennis.com recently placed him as the greatest tennis player of the Open era. It’s very hard to argue that placement. The man who has won an astonishing 74 tournaments is still playing extraordinary tennis into his 30s, and the US Open is one of his favorite spots. Five of his 74 tourney wins have come here, in record-breaking consecutive fashion even. He came close to making it six, but he lost in one of tennis’ most famed upsets to Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro. Even though he hasn’t won since 2008, this Swiss maestro must always be considered a threat here. Those who discount him do so at their own peril.

Rafael Nadal

Nadal

While Nadal has built his legacy as being the king of clay, he has typically fared well here, having won the tournament in 2010 and runner-up status last year. Even though his play has stepped up in New York over the last couple of years, don’t expect that trend to continue: Nadal has pulled out of the 2012 U.S. Open. It’s really not a surprise; his tendinitis has sidelined him for every tournament since his stunning second round loss at Wimbledon in June. He wasn’t able to defend his Gold medal at the London Olympics either. Yet while the element of surprise is vanished, the disappointment for tennis fans worldwide won’t go away as easy. Fans are now being left to ponder over Rafa’s future. Even at the spry age of 26, Nadal’s knees have an injury plagued history. We’ll see how he does when he returns for the Davis Cup, which Nadal is insistent he will be ready for.

Between the big three, they have won 32 of the last 34 majors. Expect for Djokovic or Federer to continue their trend of dominance.

Author bio: Jerome Manson is a sports enthusiast who enjoys both watching games and writing about them. When he is not cheering on his team from the stands, Jerome is blogging about 2012 US Open tennis for selectaticket.com.

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