Every tennis player knows them: the Big Three. The three players—Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic—that have dominated the game of tennis. And, with the addition of the recent Australian Open making a total of 21 grand slam titles for Nadal, one can only assume that the era of the Big Three is not yet over.
With huge fan bases battling it out as the three champions continue to strive for new heights, the new generation of players faces new pressures and challenges in addition to surpassing the impossible legacy set before them. For Medvedev, one of these challenges took the form of overcoming bad sportsmanship of crowds whenever he played as an underdog, which happened pretty much whenever he played one of the Big Three.
Growing up, I think we all had that dream to become the best at our sport. Like countless other athletes, at the age of six, Medvedev picked up a racket. By 12-years-old, Medvedev had started to chase his dream of becoming one of the professional players that he watched on television, supported by a crowd of fans, one of “the big stars.”
Like many striving to become the best in their sport, Medvedev’s path to where he currently is was not an easy one. There were many times where “the kid in [him] was doubting if he should continue to dream big things.”
While people continuously struggle with different challenges on their path to greatness, what Medvedev revealed during his press conference following the recent Australian Open final is frankly heartbreaking and sad.
As one of the underdogs that represents the new generation of tennis players, Medvedev was and still is always on the receiving end of the crowds’ banter and taunts whenever he plays one of the Big Three. And even despite many people claiming that they wanted to see the new generation take over, Medvedev stated that he “guessed these people were lying because every time [he] stepped onto the court in big matches, [he] didn’t really see much people that wanted [him] to win.”
I think that the disrespect Medvedev received from the Australian Open crowd may have been the breaking point for Medvedev, as Medvedev cites that he constantly heard people booing and that fans of Nadal would even shush the little support he received from the crowd.
But, it was what Medvedev said next that revealed just how much all the negativity and lack of support had affected him.
“I’m not sure, after 30 years [of tennis], if I’m gonna want to play tennis,” Medvedev said.
As someone that is now finally ranked first in the world, Medvedev has achieved a lot, and I feel that a lot of his achievements haven’t been appreciated as much because many of the tennis fan base is still focused on seeing the players that they have always supported continue to thrive.
However, I would urge those fans to take a moment to step back and reevaluate their behavior. I’m not saying that those fans should stop supporting their current favorite player. What I am saying is the fans need to cut down on the bad sportsmanship while players are competing and to acknowledge and recognize the talents of the new generation of players like Medvedev.
Rarely do players open up about their past, but Medvedev did. Medvedev revealed his frustrations and struggles, and I think it is a sign that fans need to change, or we are going to start to lose what could be amazing players in the future.
After all, following Medvedev’s press conference, I’m afraid that we have permanently lost a piece of one of the greatest players.
“The kid that was not dreaming is not in me anymore,” Medvedev said.