Will‌ ‌Men’s‌ ‌Tennis‌ ‌Crown‌ ‌Another‌ ‌First-Time‌ ‌Grand‌ ‌Slam‌ ‌Champion‌ ‌in‌ ‌2021?‌

Since 2010, there have been only 4 first-time Grand Slam champions: Andy Murray (2012 US Open), Stan Wawrinka (2014 Australian Open), Marin Čilić (2014 US Open), and Dominic Thiem (2020 US Open).

Daniel H. Whitlock

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That’s because 36 of the 44 Slams played in that span were won by the Big 3 of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer — all of whom won their first Slam pre-2010. Murray and Wawrinka have 6 Slams between them, which means 42 of 44 Slams were won by just 5 players.

In this year’s Australian Open, Daniil Medvedev had the chance to be the 5th first-time Slam winner since 2010. But he couldn’t get the job done and lost to Djokovic. CBS Sports reports that the world number 1 dominated the 25-year-old Russian, 7-6, 6-2, 6-2, with only the first set being competitive. This is Djokovic’s 18th Grand Slam, pulling him closer to the all-time record of 20 co-held by Federer and Nadal. On the other hand, the loss is Medvedev’s 2nd missed opportunity at becoming a first-time Slam winner, after losing the 2019 US Open final to Rafael Nadal.

Given the sustained dominance of the Big 3, or of Djokovic and Nadal in the past three years, it seems fair to wonder about this season: Will another first-time Grand Slam champion be crowned?

It is not farfetched to think that Djokovic and Nadal will sweep this year’s Slams. Djokovic already won the Australian Open, and Nadal is the clear favorite to win the French Open, slated for May 23−June 6. Then, the 33-year-old Serbian will surely be favored in the midyear Wimbledon, as he has won this tournament 5 times — including the last two in 2018 and 2019 (last year’s Wimbledon was canceled due to the pandemic). The two tennis greats are also expected to be the favorites in the season-ending US Open, which they have won a combined 7 times (3 for Djokovic, 4 for Nadal).

Read also: Australian Open final: Will we see the fall of a big one?

Then again, don't discount the sport's rising stars. Players like Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Alexander Zverev are all poised for a breakthrough, and that could happen this year. And if history is any indication, the next first Grand Slam for a male player will come at the US Open. In their infographic on tennis Grand Slam contenders, Bwin Sports note that out of the last 20 first-time Grand Slam champions, 8 won theirs at the US Open, with Dominic Thiem being the latest to accomplish this feat last year. In addition, this tournament is most likely to feature different finalists, with a total of 12 different players making it to the last 10 US Open finals — and half of them winning the championship.

That considered, Medvedev might just be next after making it to a Grand Slam final twice. If not him, fellow Next Gen stars Tsitsipas and Zverev might just break through, as they have had some success against the Big 3. Tsitsipas holds 5 career victories over the Big 3 (against Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer), while Zverev has 8 in total. Even the temperamental Nick Kyrgios, who holds 6 career victories over the Big 3, could pull it all together this year and win that first-ever Slam. 

At some point, tennis' rising stars need to rise up to the challenge and start winning not just ATP Tour tournaments, but also the Grand Slams. Thiem did it in 2020 and hopefully, someone else can become a first-time Grand Slam winner this year.