When Novak Djokovic decided to hit a tennis ball, in frustration, towards the back of the court earlier this week he effectively started a new era in tennis. For the first time since 2012 (Andy Murray) there will be a first-time Grand Slam winner. Should they only win one title for the remainder of their career, it will be the first time this has happened since Marin Cilic - who incidentally won the US Open in 2014. If Cliic wins another Slam, you will have to go back to Juan Martín del Potro in 2009 to find the last winner of a major that won just one. Again the US Open.
In 2014 and 2017 I blogged on this. I didn't expect to still be blogging about it in late 2020 but such is the dominance of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer. And this is important because it strikes to the heart of the origins of sports economics - uncertainty of outcome and competitive balance.
This year's US Open is the first Grand Slam in 16 years where none of the "Big 3" - Roger, Rafa or Novak will appear in the semi-final stage. It is quite a remarkable statistic and demonstrates the sheer dominance of the Big 3. But has this concentration of major titles impacted spectator interest? Certainly not. Yet it is almost four years since anyone other than those 3 has won a Grand Slam - Stan Wawrinka (again the US Open).
The changing of the guard this year might in fact reduce interest in the sport as it is likely Federer and Nadal, in particularly, will feature less and less in major tournament finals. The interest and goodwill than both player endear has been nothing but wonderful from men's tennis. In fact, it is likely that the retirement of both players will lead to a massive increase in uncertainty of outcome, and with it, lower interest in the sport.
Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe people are tired of seeing the same players win. However, the cheering and support than greet Federer and Nadal at major tournaments would seem to suggest otherwise.