History of Men's Tennis, 2000-2020 (Age of the Big Four) (2022)


History of Men's Tennis, 2000-2020 (Age of the Big Four) (1)

The era of men's tennis between 2000 and 2020 is often lauded by many as being a golden age of men's tennis,in part because of the dominance of four players -- known as the Big Four -- and the high quality of tennis they produced and helped produced across this era. Those four players were Roger Federer of Switzerland, Rafael Nadal of Spain, Novak Djokovic of Serbia, and Andy Murray of Great Britain.

The era is considered to have begun with Roger Federer's first Grand Slam victory at the 2003 Wimbledon Championships and is considered to have ended at the 2020 French Open with Novak Djokovic's defeat in the finals, the last time a member of the Big Four appeared at a Slam final. During this 17 year run, the Big Four won 53 out of 68 Grand Slams and appeared in 65. Each player is considered among the greatest male tennis players of all time.

Table of Contents

  • 1 "The Big Four"
    • 1.1 Roger Federer
    • 1.2 Novak Djokovic
    • 1.3 Rafael Nadal
    • 1.4 Andy Murray
  • 2 List of Grand Slam Champions
  • 3 List of Men Ranked World No. 1, 2000-2020
  • 4 Notable Matches
    • 4.1 1. 2008 Wimbledon Final
    • 4.2 2.2012 Australian Open Final
    • 4.3 3. 2014 US Open Final
    • 4.4 4. 2016 French Open Final
    • 4.5 5. 2017 Australian Open Final
    • 4.6 6. 2017 Wimbledon Final
    • 4.7 7. 6. 2020 French Open Quarterfinals

"The Big Four"

The term 'Big Four' refers to the four most dominant players of this era, all of whom contributed greatly to this era being a golden age of men's tennis. As stated before, these players were Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray.

Roger Federer

History of Men's Tennis, 2000-2020 (Age of the Big Four) (2)

Roger Federer was the most successful of the Big Four, having won 18 Grand Slam titles and secured the ATP World No. 1 ranking on four separate occasions for a total of 314 weeks. His first Grand Slam victory came at the 2003 Wimbledon Championships in which he defeated Mark Philippoussis in straight sets. The following year, Federer won the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and US Open and secured the World No. 1 ranking for the first time, a ranking he would hold for four years until shortly after his defeat at the finals of the 2008 Wimbledon Championships against Rafael Nadal. Throughout this dominant stretch between 2004 and 2008, Federer won another 8 Grand Slam titles and three ATP World Tour Finals. His finals match against Rafael Nadal in the 2008 Wimbledon Championships is considered the greatest tennis match of all time. Federer recaptured the World no. 1 ranking the next year at the 2009 Wimbledon Championships in which he won another thrilling five set finals match, this time against Andy Roddick. He maintained the ranking until Rafael Nadal reclaimed it in June 2010.

Federer's dominance waned in the early 2010s, in part because of the rise of the other half of the Big Four, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. He won the 2010 Australian Open and lost in the finals of the 2011 French Open. The next year, however, Federer secured the no. 1 ranking for a third time after winning the 2012 Wimbledon Championships, which he maintained until Novak Djokovic recaptured the ranking a few months later. Though his abysmal 2013 season was plagued with back injuries and a couple early Grand Slam exits, Federer stormed back in 2014 and reached the finals of Wimbledon (losing to Novak Djokovic in five sets) in addition to winning the Davis Cup. His resurgence continued through 2015 where he once again reached the finals of Wimbledon and lost to Djokovic, as well as won the ATP World Tour Finals. In 2016, Federer won his record 8th Wimbledon title and 18th Grand Slam and won the gold medal at the Olympics, both of which helped him regain the No. 1 ranking for a fourth time until Novak Djokovic earned it back twelve weeks later. Federer's back injury resurfaced at the end of 2016, which -- coupled with continuing threats from rising stars on tour -- contributed to his decision to retire at the 2017 Wimbledon Championships. His final match was in the semifinals of the 2017 Wimbledon Championships, where Andy Murray dispatched the Swiss 6-4, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4. At the end of the match, a tearful Federer received a five minute standing ovation from the crowd.

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic (Serbian: Новак Ђоковић, Novak Đoković, pronounced [nôʋaːk d͡ʑôːkoʋit͡ɕ]; born 22 May 1987), often referred to by the hypocorism Nole,is a Serbian professional tennis player who is currently ranked world No. 2 in men's singles tennis by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP).He is considered one of the greatest tennis players of all time. He is coached by former Slovak tennis player Marián Vajda. Djokovic holds the best match winning rate (83.00%) in Open Era, as of August 2016.

Djokovic has won 12 Grand Slam singles titles, the fourth most in history, and held the No. 1 spot in the ATP rankings for a total of 223 weeks. In majors, Djokovic has won six Australian Open titles, three Wimbledon titles, two US Open titles and one French Open title. In 2016, he became the eighth player in history to achieve the Career Grand Slam; by winning the 2016 French Open, Djokovic became the third man to hold all four major titles at once, the first since Rod Laver in 1969, and the first ever to do so on three different surfaces.

Djokovic stands alone with an all-time record of 30 Masters 1000 series titles. Djokovic's records include breaking the single-season record with six masters titles in 2015, winning 31 consecutive ATP World Tour Masters 1000 series matches, playing in the finals at all nine ATP Masters 1000 tournaments (shared with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal), and being the only player to win eight of the nine events (and at least twice). Among other titles, he has won the ATP World Tour Finals five times and was on the Serbian team which won the 2010 Davis Cup. He also won the Bronze medal in men's singles at the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Djokovic is the first Serbian player to be ranked No. 1 by the ATP and the first male player representing Serbia to win a Grand Slam singles title. Djokovic has won numerous awards, including the 2012, 2015, and 2016 Laureus World Sports Award for Sportsman of the Year,2011 BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year, five-time ITF World Champion, and four-time ATP year-end number 1. He is a recipient of the Order of St. Sava,the Order of Karađorđe's Star and the Order of the Republika Srpska.

Rafael Nadal

Rafael "Rafa" Nadal Parera (Catalan: [rəfəˈɛɫ nəˈðaɫ pəˈɾeɾə], Spanish: [rafaˈel naˈðal paˈɾeɾa][citation needed]; born 3 June 1986) is a Spanish professional tennis player. He is widely regarded as the greatest clay-court player in history, and owing to his dominance and success on the surface, he has been titled "The King of Clay".His evolution into an all-court threat has established him as one of the greatest players in tennis history,with some considering Nadal to be the greatest player of all time.

Nadal has won 19 Grand Slam singles titles, the 2008 Olympic gold medal in singles, 28 titles in ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events,and 17 ATP World Tour 500 tournaments (a record tied with Roger Federer). He was also a member of the winning Spain Davis Cup team in 2004, 2008, 2009, and 2011. In 2010, he became the seventh player in history and youngest of four in the Open Era to achieve the Career Grand Slam at age 24. He is the second male player, after Andre Agassi, to complete the singles Career Golden Slam. In 2011, Nadal was named the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year.The left-hander is the sixth player in the Open Era to reach more than 100 finals on the ATP World Tour.

Nadal and Mats Wilander are the only two male players in history who have won at least two Grand Slam titles on three different surfaces—hard court, grass, and clay. By winning the 2014 French Open, Nadal became the third player to win a single Grand Slam tournament nine times (Martina Navratilova 9, Margaret Court 11) and the first to win at least one Grand Slam tournament for ten consecutive years, breaking the record of eight consecutive years previously shared by Björn Borg, Pete Sampras, and Roger Federer. Nadal holds the record after winning his eighth straight Monte-Carlo Masters in 2012 and is the only player in the open era to achieve such a feat. Nadal is the only male player in tennis history to win one Grand Slam and Masters 1000 title for ten consecutive years from 2005–2014. He equalled Guillermo Vilas's all-time record of 49 clay court titles by winning the Barcelona Open in 2016.

Andy Murray

Andrew Barron "Andy" Murray, OBE (born 15 May 1987) is a Scottish professional tennis player currently ranked world No. 1 in men's singles.Murray represents Great Britain in his sporting activities and is a three-time Grand Slam tournament winner, two-time Olympic champion, Davis Cup champion and the winner of the 2016 ATP World Tour Finals. He was first ranked as British No. 1 on 27 February 2006, and then achieved a top-10 ranking by the ATP for the first time on 16 April 2007. Following his run to winning the 2016 Paris Masters, Murray became world No. 1 on 7 November 2016. He is also 3 times winner of the BBC's Sports personality of the year award.

At the 2012 US Open, Murray became the first British player since 1977, and the first British man since 1936, to win a Grand Slam singles tournament, when he defeated Novak Djokovic in the final. In July 2013, Murray won the 2013 Wimbledon Championships, becoming the first British player to win a Wimbledon senior singles title since Virginia Wade in 1977, and the first British man to win the men's singles title since Fred Perry, 77 years previously. In 2016, he won his second Wimbledon title to become the first British man to win multiple Wimbledon singles titles since Perry in 1935.

Murray is the men's singles 2012 and 2016 Olympic gold medallist, making him the only tennis player, male or female, to have won two Olympic singles titles. He featured in Great Britain's Davis Cup-winning team in 2015, going 11-0 in his matches (8 singles and 3 doubles) as they secured their first Davis Cup title since 1936.Following his first Wimbledon title in 2013, Murray was voted the 2013 BBC Sports Personality of the Year, repeated the feat in 2015, after the Davis Cup team won the BBC Sports Personality Team of the Year Award and again in 2016, becoming the first person to win the award three times.

List of Grand Slam Champions

Winner (Grand Slam Number/Total Slams Won)

Player won 1 Grand Slam that yearPlayer won 2 Grand Slams that yearPlayer won 3 Grand Slams that yearPlayer won 4 Grand Slams that year
Australian OpenFrench OpenWimbledonUS Open
2000A. Agassi (6/8)G. Kuerten (2/3)P. Sampras (13/14)M. Safin (1/2)
2001A. Agassi (7/8)G. Kuerten (3/3)G. Ivanisevic (1/1)L. Hewitt (1/2)
2002T. Johansson (1/1)A. Costa (1/1)L. Hewitt (2/2)P. Sampras (14/14)
2003A. Agassi (8/8)J. Carlos Ferrero (1/1)R. Federer (1/21)A. Roddick (1/1)
2004R. Federer (2/21)G. Gaudio (1/1)R. Federer (3/21)R. Federer (4/21)
2005M. Safin (2/2)R. Nadal (1/20)R. Federer (5/21)R. Federer (6/21)
2006R. Federer (7/21)R. Nadal (2/20)R. Federer (8/21)R. Federer (9/21)
2007R. Federer (10/21)R. Nadal (3/20)R. Federer (11/21)R. Federer (12/21)
2008N. Djokovic (1/20)R. Nadal (4/20)R. Nadal (5/20)R. Federer (13/21)
2009R. Nadal (6/20)R. Federer (14/21)R. Federer (15/21)J. Martin Del Potro (1/2)
2010R. Federer (16/21)R. Nadal (7/20)R. Nadal (8/20)R. Nadal (9/20)
2011N. Djokovic (2/20)R. Nadal (10/120)N. Djokovic (3/20)N. Djokovic (4/20)
2012N. Djokovic (5/20)R. Nadal (11/20)R. Federer (17/21)A. Murray (1/5)
2013N. Djokovic (6/20)R. Nadal (12/20)A. Murray (2/5)R. Nadal (13/20)
2014S. Wawrinka (1/3)R. Nadal (14/20)N. Djokovic (7/15)M. Cilic (1/1)
2015N. Djokovic (8/20)S. Wawrinka (2/3)N. Djokovic (9/20)N. Djokovic (10/20)
2016N. Djokovic (11/20)N. Djokovic(12/20)A. Murray(3/5)S. Wawrinka(3/3)
2017R. Federer (18/21)R. Nadal (15/20)R. Federer(19/21)R. Nadal (16/20)
2018R.Federer (20/21)R. Nadal (17/20)N. Djokovic (13/20)N. Djokovic (14/20)
2019N. Djokovic (15/20)R. Nadal (18/20)R. Federer (21/21)N. Djokovic (16/20)
2020S. Tsitsipas (1/9)R. Nadal (19/20)R. Nadal (20/20)N. Djokovic (17/20)
2021N. Djokovic (18/20)D. Thiem (1/3)A. Zverev (1/6)S. Tsitsipas (2/9)
2022K. Khachanov (1/2)D. Thiem(2/3)N.Djokovic (20/20)A. Zverev(4/12)

List of Men Ranked World No. 1, 2000-2020

OrderNameStart DateEnd DateNo. of Weeks (No. in Career)
1Andre Agassi13 September 199910 September 200052 (87)
2Pete Sampras11September 200019 November 200010 (286)
3Marat Safin20 November 20003 December 20002 (2)
4Gustavo Kuerten4 December 200028 January 20018 (8)
Marat Safin29 January 200125 February 20014 (6)
Gustavo Kuerten26 February 20011 April 20015 (13)
Marat Safin2 April 200122 April 20013 (9)
Gustavo Kuerten23 April 200118 November 200130 (43)
5Lleyton Hewitt19 November 200127 April 200375 (75)
Andre Agassi28 April 200311 May 20032 (89)
Lleyton Hewitt12 May 200315 June 20035 (80)
Andre Agassi16 June 20037 September 200312 (101)
6Juan Carlos Ferrero8 September 20032 November 20038 (8)
7Andy Roddick3 November 20031 February 200413 (13)
8Roger Federer2 February 200417 August 2008237 (237)
9Rafael Nadal18 August 20085 July 200946 (46)
Roger Federer6 July 20096 June 201048 (285)
Rafael Nadal7 June 20103 July 201156 (102)
10Novak Djokovic4 July 20118 July 201253 (53)
Roger Federer9 July 20124 November 201217 (302)
Novak Djokovic5 November 20126 October 201348 (101)
Rafael Nadal7 October 20136 July 201439 (141)
Novak Djokovic7 July 20146 November 2016122 (223)
11Andy Murray7 November 201620 August 201741 (41)
Rafael Nadal21 August 20174 March 201828 (169)
Roger Federer5 March 20187 July 201969 (371)
Andy Murray8 July 20192 February 202030 (71)
12Alexander Zverev3 February 202026 April 202012 (12)
13Dominic Thiem27 April 20204 July 202162 (62)
Alexander Zverev5 July 202117 March 2024140 (152)

Notable Matches

1. 2008 Wimbledon Final

Roger Federer447 (7)7 (10)7
Rafael Nadal666 (5)6 (8)9

Considered by many as being the greatest match of all time, the 2008 Wimbledon finals pitted the world's two most dominant players at the time, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Nadal notched the first two sets 6-4 6-4 and was down 4-5 in the third set when a rain delay stopped the match for 80 minutes. When play resumed, Federer fought his way back to even the match and won both the third and fourth sets in tiebreakers. The fact that Federer won both these sets in tiebreaks presented an ominously daunting task: because the Wimbledon Championships do not play fifth set tiebreaks, Federer had to break the Spaniard's serve or wear him down as the set continued indefinitely in order to win. Federer came within a break point of accomplishing this task and two points from clinching the match, but Nadal pushed back to hold serve. Ultimately, Nadal prevailed 9 games to Federer's 7 and clinched the championship. Nadal's victory not only helped him secure the world no. 1 ranking in the following weeks, but also facilitated the end of Federer's reign as the sole dominant force on tour which itself allowed for the rise of the Big Four throughout the next three years.

2.2012 Australian Open Final

Novak Djokovic5666(5) 7
Rafael Nadal7 4 2 7(7)5

The2012 Australian Open Men's singles final pitted the world's top two players,Novak DjokovicandRafael Nadal, against each other in a Grand Slam tournament final for the fourth time and third consecutive time. Djokovic defeated Nadal in five sets to win the match. At five hours and fifty-three minutes, it was theMajorfinal match with the longest duration in history. During the trophy ceremony, both Nadal and Djokovic required chairs, as they were both so tired that they couldn't stand.

It was lauded as one of the greatest matches ever by former players, legends, and analysts of the sport. John McEnroe claimed it surpassed the 2008 Wimbledon final as the best tennis match of all time, while legends Pete Sampras, Mats Wilander, and Björn Borg said it was the best match they saw in their lifetime.

3. 2014 US Open Final

Kei Nishikori333
Marin Cilic666

The 2014 US Open final was a shocker to many because the two favorites for the title -- Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer -- not just lost in the semifinals, but lost to players who had never reached a Slam final before. 14th-seeded Marin Cilic defeated 5-time champion Federer in straight sets while 10th-seeded Kei Nishikori overcame Djokovic in four sets. While the finals itself was largely uneventful, in which Cilic prevailed over Nishikori in straight sets with relative ease, the most significant part of this match was that it was the only grand slam final between the 2005 French Open and the 2018 US Open at which no members of the Big Four where present. It is for this reason that the 2014 US Open is considered the beginning of the twilight years for the Big Four, as their dominance began to falter and non-Big Four players began to take control of the tour. The US Open final the first of Kei Nishikori's 5 slam final appearances, but because of injuries and health problems, Nishikori would not make another appearance until 2017, though he was still a continuing threat on tour during that time. Cilic faded back into relative obscurity after the match and his best Slam showing since his victory was the semifinals of the 2016 Australian Open, where he lost in straight sets to Andy Murray. He retired in 2019 amidst health concerns.

4. 2016 French Open Final

Novak Djokovic3666
Andy Murray6124

It was the first time in nearly two decades that number 1 played number 2 and neither had won the French Open previously. Andy Murray had a career resurgence on clay, making deep runs in the Masters tournaments prior to the French Open, finishing runner up to Djokovic in Madrid before besting him in Rome. Rain had affected the tournament schedule and in Djokovic's case, he had to play 4 matches in 5 days. Murray was playing to become the first Brit since 1937 to win, while Djokovic had multiple historical records on the line, most notably joining the elite group of men who won a career grand slam and joining Rod Laver and Don Budge as the only men to hold all 4 Grand Slam titles at the same time. After Murray took the first set, Djokovic rallied to win the match prevailing in four sets.

5. 2017 Australian Open Final

Federer and Nadal met in a major final for the first time since the French Open in 2011. The match between the perennial but aging archrivals was anticipated due to speculation of this possibly being their last contest in a major final, the potential tennis history made from either victory and subsequent implications on their respective legacies, and the match's relevance towards discussing either man as being 'the greatest tennis player of all time'.Federer triumphed in five sets despite being a break down early in the deciding 5th set. This was the first time Federer won a major since Wimbledon in 2012, the first time he defeated Nadal at a major since the Wimbledon final of 2007, and the first time that Federer defeated Nadal in a Grand Slam match outside the grass courts of Wimbledon. With this win, Federer increased his all-time record to 18 major titles, became the oldest man to win a Grand Slam tournament, at age 35, since Ken Rosewall at the Australian Open in 1972, and became the first ever man to win at least 5 singles majors in 3 different Grand Slam tournaments each.

6. 2017 Wimbledon Final

Roger Federer726(7)68
Novak Djokovic667(9)46

For the third time in four years Djokovic and Federer met in the Wimbledon final. At the age of 35 Federer had made begun an extraordinary comeback by winning the Australian Open and the first two Masters 1000 events of 2017. Djokovic was also gradually returning to form after a disappointing year since completing his career grand slam at Roland Garros in 2016. In an extraordinary display of endurance Federer won Wimbledon for a record 8th time after 5 hours and 55 minutes.

7. 6. 2020 French Open Quarterfinals

Andy Murray6656
Novak Djokovic3474

The 2020 French Open quarterfinals match between Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic was, like the 2014 US Open finals, noteable not because of the match itself but because of its significance. This time, the significance wasn't the beginning of the twilight years of the Big Four, but its end. The match was the final meeting between any members of the Big Four as Novak Djokovic announced his intentions to retire at the conclusion of the tournament, leaving Murray the final Big Four player on tour since Roger Federer retired in 2018 and Rafael Nadal in 2019. While Djokovic did manage to wrestle the third set from Murray, the match was largely dominated by Murray, who managed to convert 4/6 break points and clinched the match in under two hours. At the end of the match, Djokovic was given a standing ovation akin to the one Federer received at Wimbledon three years prior. Murray would go on to lose in the semifinals to two-time defending champion Kei Nishikori, and would retire the following year.

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