June 30, 2019
History is on the side of the Big Three — Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic — entering Wimbledon, as the legendary trio has combined to claim 14 of the past 16 titles at The Championships.
And although some may look to Grand Slam champions Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic, 2018 finalist Kevin Anderson or recent Roland Garros runner-up Dominic Thiem to spring a surprise on the grass, former World No. 1 Mats Wilander has other ideas. His sights are set on current or recent #NextGenATP players.
“I think the surprise is the group of young players that has started to present themselves. Stefanos Tsitsipas made the semi-finals of the Australian Open. There is Denis Shapovalov, there is Felix Auger-Aliassime, there is Daniil Medvedev, there is Karen Khachanov,” Wilander said. “There are so many young players and I feel like Wimbledon is where they need to present themselves and I believe that one of the 19, 20, 21-year-old guys is going to do it this year.”
Each of those five players Wilander named either has competed at the Next Gen ATP Finals or is currently a #NextGenATP star. They range in age from 18 (Auger-Aliassime) to 23 (Khachanov and Medvedev). But they all have enjoyed impressive ascents up the ATP Rankings over the past two years.
Entering the first week of Wimbledon in 2017, none of those five players were placed inside the Top 30 of the ATP Rankings. This year, they all are. Of the group, Tsitsipas has advanced furthest at a Grand Slam, reaching the semi-finals at this year’s Australian Open. They all have made at least the semi-finals of an ATP Masters 1000 tournament, with Khachanov triumphing at last year’s Rolex Paris Masters.
No player who has competed at the 21-and-under season finale in Milan or is currently a #NextGenATP competitor has won a Grand Slam title. If one does at SW19, they will become the 150th men’s singles major winner in history.
Wilander’s fellow Swede, Jonas Bjorkman, with whom he won this week’s ATP Champions Tour event — the Svaneholm Open — thinks that a member of the Big Three will reign again at the All England Club.
“It’s going to be a boring answer,” said Bjorkman, the former World No. 4 who climbed to No. 1 in the ATP Doubles Rankings. “I’m going to go with Novak Djokovic, putting him and Roger Federer as favourites with maybe Rafael Nadal just underneath.”