Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have dominated men’s tennis for nearly 20 years, but are the next generation now ready to take over? Daniil Medvedev ended Djokovic’s Calendar Slam bid at the US Open and South African Lloyd Harris thinks there could be a changing of the guard very soon
Lloyd Harris believes the time is coming for the younger generation to “kick out” the ‘Big Three’ from tennis’ top table, following Daniil Medvedev’s stunning US Open win.
Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have dominated men’s tennis for nearly 20 years, winning 60 of the last 73 Grand Slam titles.
But Medvedev’s straight-sets win over Djokovic in the final in New York was the biggest indication yet that times might be changing.
Asked whether he felt there are cracks starting to appear in the ‘Big Three’, world No 31 Harris said: “Absolutely, it’s been coming for a while. It’s been hard for the younger generation to just crack into those Grand Slams.
“Novak’s just been unstoppable until this very last match…I just think he came up against an extremely difficult opponent on the day. Daniil played some really good tennis throughout the whole summer and just kind of reflects this newer generation.”
As well as Medvedev’s major breakthrough, Alexander Zverev beat Djokovic at the Olympics and Stefanos Tsitsipas and Hubert Hurkacz have both won Masters titles this year.
“This young generation is really coming through,” added Harris. “If you look at the top 50 now, I think there are more young guys in there than there’s been in the last 20 years.
“It just shows you… Felix [Auger-Aliassime] had a tremendous run [at the US Open] as well as Hurkacz, who got a Masters win in Miami, [and Casper] Ruud winning three titles…so this new generation is really coming through nicely and these are all the guys that I grew up with. It’s incredible how we’re all within one year from each other, between 1996 to 1998 almost, which is pretty incredible
“So, yes, I’ve known these guys for a long time, we’ve been competitive in the juniors already and it’s nice to see all of us progressing and now I think it’s time to kick out the ‘Big Three’ and let the younger generation take over.”
Harris, 24, has claimed some big wins himself this year, beating Stan Wawrinka, Nadal, Dominic Thiem and Denis Shapovalov.
He is up to a career-high No 31 in the world after reaching the quarter-finals at the US Open, where he lost to Zverev in straight sets. Harris says he is not “intimidated” by facing anyone on tour and has more belief that he can beat the top players.
“I’ve known these guys since I was 15, 16 playing on the ITF (International Tennis Federation) junior tours. I’ve seen all of them around and played against a bunch of them
“It’s almost like one of your friends that you grew up with and now [we are] all just competing on tour against each other.
“Obviously we’re fierce competitors when we’re out on the court but I’m definitely not scared or intimidated going on the court against them. And also now with my recent wins, having more belief, even if you go up against a Rafa, Roger or Novak… you’ve got to have the belief to beat them and I know I can…so why not, you know it’s going to be an extremely difficult match and you’ve got to be ready for a challenge that’s for sure.
“But that’s what we love, we love going out in front of fans, in new stadiums and getting those goosebump moments competing against one of those legends.
IF YOU CAN PULL OFF A WIN AGAINST ONE OF THEM IT ALWAYS FEELS AMAZING, THERE’S ALMOST JUST LIKE THAT LITTLE BIT OF EXTRA MOTIVATION WHEN YOU ARE PLAYING AGAINST THEM.
Harris has stayed in New York after the US Open as he is set to play for South Africa in the Davis Cup against Venezuela. The South African squad also features Davis Cup veterans Ruan Roelofse and Raven Klaasen, and youngsters Philip Henning and Sipho Montsi.
South Africa Davis Cup captain Christo van Rensburg thinks Harris has the potential to climb even higher up the rankings.
“I got to know him now and physically it’s amazing how strong the guy looks, so I think taking confidence from winning, competing and beating former number one’s…he can build on that confidence and from my point of view, [I am] very fortunate to be on the court here with someone with that much confidence.”