In this Golden Age of men’s tennis, every Grand Slam tournament gives the “Big Four” an opportunity to make, still, more history.
To move up on the all-time list of Grand Slam champions and to further distance themselves from their predecessors — and those who follow in their footsteps.
Between them, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have won 38 of the last 42 majors — and odds are one of those four will hoist the US Open trophy on Sept. 13 inside Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Federerreigns asthe all-time men’s leader with 17 Grand Slam titles, Nadal is tied with Pete Sampras for second at 14, Djokovic has nine and Murray two.
“But, you know, don’t forget that for everybody [there] is a start and for everybody is an end,” Nadal, 29, said, indicating that the end of the line is not too far awayfor himself and Federer, 34. “We still here, but tomorrow we not going to be here.
“Sampras was here. He’s not here anymore. [Jimmy] Connors, [John] McEnroe, everybody pass. The sport continues. We need to promote well our sport, promote well the new generations, too, to keep coming our sport in a very high position of the world of sports.”
Two players outside of the Big Four — Stan Wawrinka (2015 French Open) and Marin Cilic (2014 US Open) — have capturedhalf of the last four Grand Slam events, giving hope that one of them — or someone else — could crash the party in Queens.
But don’t bet on it.
Top-seeded Djokovic remains the favorite to win his second championship in New York despite a 1-4 record in finals here. He has been to the semis eight straight years and is 53-9 all-time in Queens.
“But looking at the results over the years, it has been one of the most consistent tournaments I’ve had,” the Serb said late Wednesday after he blew outAndreas Haider-Maurer, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2. “Ever since 2007 finals I’ve been making semis each year, so this definitely is in back of my mind.
“Whenever I come here, I know that conditions suit me well, that I feel good on the court. I play very good tennis. I obviously try each year to get myself in a position to fight for the trophy. That’s no different this year.”
Djokovic could face a resurgent Nadal in the quarterfinals and also has the defending champion Cilic in his half of the draw. Federer could await in the final.
Stil, if Djokovic captures his 10th Grand Slam title here, he would tie Bill Tilden for seventh on the all-time men’s list.
“He’s catching up with the Grand Slam titles. He’s arguably top five, top six all-time greats right now, approaching guys that you would’ve thought had a place reserved for themselves,” seven-time Grand Slam winner John McEnroe said on ESPN. “If he can keep this level up for the next couple years and he doesn’t get injured, you would expect…that he could get three, four, five more majors for sure.”
It will be interesting to see if Djokovic can catch Nadal’s 14 majors before Nadal threatens Federer’s 17.
Affected by confidence issues and mediocre results this year, the Spaniard has fallen to No. 8 in the world and hasn’t won aGrand Slam titlefor the first time since 2004.
But he says don’t count him out yet.
“I am No. 8 in the world,” he said Wednesday after a tough three-set win over Diego Schwartzman. “I am not No. 100.”
Federer hasn’t won a Grand Slam title since Wimbledon in 2012 and his countryman Wawrinka has actually won twice as many majors since 2014 as Federer and Nadal combined.
Yet Federer is coming off back-to-back wins over Murray and Djokovic in a best-of-3 sets situation in Cincinnati and said it’s possible he’s playing some of the best tennis of his career at 34.
“Yes. If I win the tournament here yes, maybe,” he said. “Not if I win a first round, because these rounds are here to just keep on progressing and moving forward and doing the right things and giving yourself confidence and getting to understand the conditions.”
An 18th major title would further separate Federer from Nadal on the all-time list andadd fuel to the argument that he’s the Greatest of All Time.
Murray, meantime, could meet Federer in the semis and then Djokovic in the final.
“Nowadays I really don’t get ahead of myself in tournaments,” said Murray, the 2012 US Open champ. “I don’t look far ahead.”
The Golden Age of men’s tenniswon’t last forever. But it is still here and (more) history is on the line during this fortnight.
Follow Adam Zagoria on Twitter @AdamZagoria for updates throughout the U.S. Open.