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The importance of having new names on tennis’ Grand Slam trophies

As tennis fans we’ve been remarkably lucky to have had three of the best players to ever live playing at the same time. In Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, we’ve seen three superstars competing against each other and hoovering up the vast majority of Grand Slam titles on offer each year.

But this year’s US Open has thrown up something altogether different. Federer missed out on the event through injury, while Nadal decided not to enter in light of concerns surrounding the coronavirus crisis. That left Djokovic as the overwhelming favourite in the US Open tennis odds to win the competition, but few could have predicted the Serbian’s fate. In his quarter-final against Pablo Carreño Busta, Djokovic was defaulted from the tournament after inexplicably hitting a line judge with a ball out of frustration.

Djokovic’s actions were by all accounts accidental, but the decision made was the right one, and the result is that we’re guaranteed a new name on the US Open trophy. It’ll be strange to see a new face lifting a Grand Slam title. The last new champion we had in one of the big four events was Marin Čilić in 2014, when he won the US Open — proof of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic’s outstanding dominance of the game’s biggest titles.

But the fact that a younger, less experienced player has a chance to get his hands on one of those big prizes could be a real blessing for men’s tennis. The likes of Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev have the potential to be great champions in their own right, but you feel that as long as Federer, Nadal and Djokovic are performing to such an exceptionally high standard, it’ll be difficult for them to truly break through.

The exit of Djokovic from the US Open means there is a chance for a player of that ilk to earn their breakthrough moment in their career. Individual sports are as much about the mental side of things as they are about skill and talent, and often it takes that breakthrough win to really allow a player to kick on and fulfil their potential.

When Andy Murray won the US Open in 2012, it was a real boost — proof that Murray had the talent and the stamina to go toe-to-toe with the best players in the world and come out on top. The Scot went on to win Wimbledon twice, becoming a multiple Grand Slam champion, all as a result of finally capturing that once elusive maiden Grand Slam.

It’s unlikely that we’ll see a player rise to the levels of Federer, Nadal or Djokovic. These are players who have made tennis their own over the past 20 years or so, bringing the game to new heights and new levels of popularity. There will come a time when they are not at their peak any longer, and new names will need to come to the fore. This year’s US Open is the perfect opportunity to see who has the talent and mettle to seize the initiative and get that first Grand Slam title to their name.