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31 Jan, 2020 14:47

Austria’s Thiem can emulate Djokovic, Federer & Nadal with victory in maiden Australian Open final as he bids to topple Big Three

Austria’s Thiem can emulate Djokovic, Federer & Nadal with victory in maiden Australian Open final as he bids to topple Big Three

After Dominic Thiem secured a place in the final of the 2020 Australian Open, the most pressing question the Austrian tennis sensation will face is a straightforward one: can he stop the juggernaut that is Novak Djokovic?

The ‘Big Three’ in men’s tennis – Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer – have established themselves as a ruling trio who have claimed the lion’s share of Grand Slam titles over the past decade.

READ MORE: Austrian sensation Dominic Thiem reaches maiden Australian Open final to set up clash with Novak Djokovic

During that period just four players – Andy Murray of the UK, Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka, Croatia’s Marin Cilic and Argentina’s Juan Martín del Potro – have made inroads in the trio’s dominance, winning eight out of 56 Grand Slam trophies between 2006 and 2019.

With the emergence of a new, immensely talented generation of players, including Thiem, Germany’s Alexander Zverev, and Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, tennis pundits have speculated on the possible replacement of leaders on the men’s tour with young stars storming the top places firmly occupied by the ‘Big Three.’

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So far their attempts have been unsuccessful, as both Medvedev and Thiem were beaten by Rafael Nadal in their respective Grand Slam finals.

Ahead of the Australian Open, Serbian tennis icon Djokovic suggested that the dominance of the ‘Big Three’ is no longer guaranteed, with young players pushing hard to dethrone them from the leading positions.

They’re coming closer and closer. It’s obvious. They’re literally one set away,” Djokovic said, predicting his final clash against Thiem who defeated another rising star Zverev in the semi-final.

With no Grand Slam wins and less experience of playing at the top level, Thiem is the heavy underdog for Sunday’s title match against his more-decorated rival, who is bidding for a record-extending eighth Australian Open title and 17th overall.

However, his aggressive style and at some point reckless bravery could work to his advantage in their fierce battle for the Australian Open crown.

His two previous attempts to win the French Open – in 2018 and 2019 – were ruined by the ‘King of Clay’ Nadal, who beat his lower-ranked counterpart on both occasions.

But the Austrian star avenged his Roland Garros defeats in Melbourne, sensationally knocking out Nadal in the quarter-final.

Thiem will also be competing in a maiden Australian Open final, and could join the likes of Nadal, Federer and Djokovic, and even Russia’s Yevgeny Kafelnikov, in winning in Melbourne in his first ever appearance in a final.

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Kafelnikov did so way back in 1999, while Federer won on his maiden Melbourne final appearance in 2004; Djokovic did the same in 2008, and Nadal followed suit in 2009.

In the those three cases, wins in a maiden Melbourne final have been part of a very special Grand Slam journey as Djokovic, Nadal and Federer established themselves as the ‘Big Three’.

Thiem will be hoping that he can unseat one of that trio on Sunday, and in the process kick-start a campaign for many more Major titles.