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Brian Tan | Now Serving

The other big three

Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012

Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 08:11

We are living in the Golden Age of sports. Their popularity in this country has never been as evident, and American sports have been picking up steam internationally, as well. We have the privilege of watching the likes of Brady, Manning, Kobe, LeBron and Jeter. All of these athletes have transcended their sport and will be shoo−in Hall of Famers.

But far beyond the end zones, backcourts and baseball diamonds, there are three men — arguably the three greatest ever at their sport — who have dominated it like no trio in history has ever done before.

The first man is poetry in motion. Universally considered the greatest tennis player of all time, Roger Federer is so smooth that his racket might as well be an extension of his arm. If you had to create a player with perfect technique in a video game, your player would look exactly like Federer.

Rafael Nadal, on the other hand, could not have a more different style. Every ounce of muscle is concentrated on hitting a ball as hard as possible and with as much spin as possible. While Federer’s game is the definition of gracefulness, Nadal’s game is the definition of grinding. He battles every point like it is the difference between life and death and will relentlessly abuse his opponents’ weaknesses.

The third in the trio is Novak Djokovic, who pulls helpless opponents around the court like a magician controlling puppets, punishing them with his impeccable timing and ability to change direction.

These three athletes have been extraordinarily consistent in winning, but comparing tennis accomplishments to results in basketball or football is like comparing apples to oranges. Still, just to put tennis and basketball side−by−side for the sake of comparison, during the era of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, considered to be the golden age of basketball, the “Showtime” Lakers and Bird−led Celtics won eight of the nine NBA championships from 1980−88.

In tennis, before this year’s US Open, the Big Three had won 29 of the last 30 Grand Slams.

Federer himself has made at least the quarterfinals in each of the last 34 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments. As the hands−down greatest clay court player of all time, Nadal has played in the French Open eight times in his career and has only ever lost one match there. Djokovic has ended the past two years as the No. 1 player in the world, had one of the best seasons of all time in 2011 and owns five Grand Slam titles to date. The last time anyone has held the number one ranking besides these three men was in February of 2004.

Witnessing a sport’s greatest player ever is considered a privilege. Witnessing the three best players of all time play each other in their primes is incredible. Again, it is hard to compare, but it would be like having Tom Brady and Peyton Manning play each other every single year in the Super Bowl. That is where we are at with the Big Three of tennis.

It is always predictable that they will triumph at Grand Slams, yet never boring to watch.

The sport of tennis is flourishing under an unprecedented and incredible wealth of talent. If any of the three players were American, he would be a household name in the States and would likely already be considered one of the greatest American athletes of all time. So let’s take a moment from the excitement of touchdowns, slam dunks and three−pointers on SportsCenter and take a minute to appreciate what is happening in the sport of tennis.



Brian Tan is a sophomore who is majoring in economics and Chinese. He can be reached at

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