The Big 3 + 2

Stan Wawrinka has won as many majors as Andy Murray (3)

I know that everyone refers to this era’s best players as The Big 4 which includes Roger Federer, Raphael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray but I will present my case to rename this era as The Big 3 + 2 which would make the case that it’s really been like this:

The Big 3 Grand Slams
Rafael Nadal (20–8)
Roger Federer (20–11)
Novak Djokovic (20–11)

Plus 2
Andy Murray (3–8)
Stan Wawrinka (3–1)

I do not intend to diminish anything achieved by Andy Murray but instead, raise the accomplishments of Stan Wawrinka to create a Fab Five of tennis. The numbers will prove my point.

The Big 3 + 2 Era

Let’s take a quick glance at the performance of these 5 great players in grand slam events ever since Federer began this incredible period of time. The first major came in 2003 and at the time of writing this, the most recent title just happened at the 2021 US Open with Djokovic losing the final to Danill Medvedev and just missing the chance to claiming the calendar Grand Slam.

Wimbledon: 18–0 (18 in a row! They canceled 2020 due to Covid19)
Australian Open: 18–1 (17 in a row!)
French Open: 17–1 (17 in a row!)
US Open: 13–5 (Streak ended in 2020 US Open)
Total 66–7 (2003–2021) 90.4%!

Since Federer won his first major (2003 Wimbledon), the 3+2 have won 66 of the last 73 grand slam tournaments! 66/73!!! That’s 90.4% of all majors!

If you look at the image insert above, you will see Stan Wawrinka’s three majors indicated with the red letter W for Wawrinka for the 2014 Australian Open, 2015 French Open and 2016 US Open. He defeated Nadal then Djokovic twice. By the way, Stan eliminated Novak at the 2019 US Open in the 4th round.

Some will argue that Stan does not belong in this grouping because he has not ever reached the number one ranking. His highest ranking achieved was number three which isn’t bad considering how long these other four players have dominated the top 4 spots in the last 15 years. I think if we gauge them all according to their performances in grand slams — the greatest stage in tennis — then we can see that Stan can be compared to Andy Murray at the very least.

Stan’s Gram Slams & Other Results
Stan’s career at Grand Slams.

There’s a 5 year period where Stan truly competed well with the Big 4 from 2013 to 2017, winning 3 Majors and losing to Nadal in the 2017 French Open final.

Stan is actually closer to achieving the career slam than Andy Murray because he has won three out of the four majors whereas Andy has only won 2 of 4. Sadly, Andy has lost in the finals of both the French Open and Australian Open (5 times!)

Andy’s Grand Slams & Other results

As a comparison, here are the grand slam achievements for Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic.

Federer’s Grand Slams & Other Results
Nadal’s Grand Slams & Other Results
Djokovic Grand Slams & Other Results

The fab five have won 66 of the 73Grand Slam events from 2003 to 2020. The only 6 majors that these five did not win were won by the following:

Dominic Thiem ended a streak by winning the 2020 US Open. The last time someone outside these 5 players won a Grand Slam title was 5 years ago at the 2014 US Open when Marin Cilic defeated Kei Nishikori. The other 4 winners were 2009 with Del Potro upsetting Federer at the US Open.2005 Marat Safin beating Leyton Hewitt, 2004 French Open Gaston Gaudio over fellow Argentinian Guillermo Coria and the 2003 US Open with Andy Roddick beating Juan Carlos Ferrero. Thiem joins these elite group of 6 players to win a major since 2003.

It’s interesting to note that Andy Roddick won the 2003 US Open after Federer claimed his first Wimbledon crown and it appeared as if these two players were destined to share many more grand slam titles but that never happened as Roger completely dominated Roddick.

The most painful statistics involve their head to head clashes on the biggest stages of all, at the Grand Slam events where Federer was 8–0 vs Roddick including 4–0 in the finals. He lost 3 tough titles at Wimbledon (2004, 2005 & the epic 2009 battle 14–16 in the 5th set!). He also lost the 2006 US Open final to Roger.

Only 7 players have ever won a tournament from 2003 to 2019 where at least 4 of these 5 players participated in. That’s 12 tournaments out of 100! That means they won 88% of ALL tournaments they competed in.

Note: So there is some solace for Andy Roddick as he won the most championships (outside of Grand Slams) than anyone else in this era where at least four of these 5 players competed in. He won 3 times. Stan won it twice but they were at Grand Slams.

Only six times has a player outside the group beaten two of them in the same Grand Slam tournament (Safin at the 2005 Australian Open, Tsonga at the 2008 Australian Open, del Potro at the 2009 US Open, Berdych at the 2010 Wimbledon Championships and Wawrinka at the 2014 Australian Open and the 2015 French Open). Stan Wawrinka, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Tomáš Berdych are the only players to have beaten each member of the Big Four at a Grand Slam event.

Wins over each member of the Big Four at a Grand Slam event

  • Stan Wawrinka, 9 wins (defeated Murray at the 2010 and 2013 US Open and 2017 French Open; Nadal at the 2014 Australian Open; Federer at the 2015 French Open; and Djokovic at the 2014 Australian Open, 2015 French Open and 2016 & 2019 US Open).
  • Tomas Berdych, 6 wins (def. Murray at the 2010 French Open; Federer at the 2010 Wimbledon Championships and 2012 US Open; Djokovic at the 2010 and 2017 Wimbledon Championships; and Nadal at the 2015 Australian Open)
  • Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 5 wins (defeated Murray and Nadal at the 2008 Australian Open; Djokovic at the 2010 Australian Open; and Federer at the 2011 Wimbledon Championships and at the 2013 French Open)

Wins over three members of the Big Four at a Grand Slam event

  • Fernando Verdasco, 4 wins (def. Djokovic at the 2005 US Open; Murray at the 2009 Australian Open and 2018 US Open; and Nadal at the 2016 Australian Open)
  • Andy Roddick, 3 wins (defeated Nadal at the 2004 US Open; Djokovic at the 2009 Australian Open; and Murray at the 2009 Wimbledon Championships)
  • Marin Čilić, 3 wins (defeated Murray at the 2009 US Open; Federer at the 2014 US Open; and Nadal at the 2018 Australian Open)

Only four players have defeated 3 of the Big Four at the same tournament. Two of these players are members of the Big Four: Nadal who defeated Murray in the round of 16, Djokovic in the semi-finals, and Federer in the final to win the 2008 Hamburg Masters; and Federer who defeated Murray in the round robin round, Djokovic in the semi-finals, and Nadal in the finals to win the 2010 ATP World Tour Finals. The only two other players to have achieved this trifecta are:

  • David Nalbandian (defeated Nadal in the quarter-finals, Djokovic in the semi-finals, and Federer in the finals to win the 2007 Madrid Masters)
  • Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (defeated Djokovic in the round of 16, Murray in the quarterfinals, and Federer in the finals to win the 2014 Canada Masters)

Only two players have beaten a member of the Big Four in a major final. The first to do so was Juan Martin del Potro when he defeated Federer in the 2009 US Open final. Wawrinka defeated Nadal in the 2014 Australian Open final, and Djokovic in the 2015 Roland Garros final and the 2016 US Open final. In all 4 cases they defeated the world №1 in the process.

Number One Weeks

As mentioned before, Stan has never reached number one and Andy managed to reach the top one time for 41 weeks. Here are the cumulative weeks for the Big four spent in the top 4.

Stan is the only other player in the last 15 years to come close to the big 4.

As you can see, Nadal, Federer and Djokovic each finished the year at number 1 five times and Murray once. The Big 4 have been number 1 the last 16 years!

Novak trails Federer for all-time mark for weeks spent at number one but he has a good chance of breaking his record if he can maintain his current level of tennis for another few years. He’s currently still number one so it can happen.

Head to Head

Here is how the Fab 5 performed against one another.

Stan vs the Big 4 (21–75 .21% win percentage)

Federer 3–23 overall. 1–6 in Grand Slams.

Nadal 3–19 overall. 1–1 in Grand Slam finals.

Djokovic’s 6–21 overall record but Wawrinka leads Djokovic 2–0 in Grand Slam finals and 3–2 in all ATP finals

Murray 9–12 overall. 3–3 in Grand Slams.

Stan has the most victories over the Big 4 in history (outside of the big 4 members vs one another) with 21 wins and 9 in majors(defeated Murray at the 2010 and 2013 US Open and 2017 French Open; Nadal at the 2014 Australian Open; Federer at the 2015 French Open; and Djokovic at the 2014 Australian Open, 2015 French Open and 2016 & 2019 US Open).

The Big 3 + 2 Head to Head (as of October 2020)

The Dominance outside the Grand Slams (ATP Masters)

The dominance of these players extended beyond the Grand Slam events into the ATP Masters series. Just check out the sea of green! Djokovic leads with a record 36 titles followed by Nadal(35), Federer (28), Murray (14) and Wawrinka (1).

This is a fun statistical breakdown of the top 15 titles that a tennis player could win. It includes the following:

4 Grand Slam events
1 Olympic Gold Medal for Singles event
1 Year-End ATP title
9 ATP Masters titles

Djokovic has come the closest to winning all 15 titles for a career slam. He has won 14 of 15 and missing only the individual Gold medal for his trophy case.
Nadal and Federer have won 12 of 15. Nadal missing Year-end title plus Miami and Paris, Roger missing only the Gold medal, Montreal & Rome titles. Andy has won 11 of 15, missing French, Australian, Montreal & Indian Wells.

Big Four vs the rest of the field

To date, the Big 3 + 2 have collectively won 66 Major titles (with Federer 20, Nadal 20, Djokovic 20, and Murray & Wawinka with 3 each). The only other active players who have a Major title to their name are Juan Martín del Potro (2009 US Open), Stan Wawrinka (2014 Australian Open, 2015 French Open, 2016 US Open) and Marin Čilić (2014 US Open) and Dominic Thiem (2020 US Open). Only six times has a player outside the group beaten two of them in the same Grand Slam tournament (Safin at the 2005 Australian Open, Tsonga at the 2008 Australian Open, del Potro at the 2009 US Open, Berdych at the 2010 Wimbledon Championships and Wawrinka at the 2014 Australian Open and the 2015 French Open). Stan Wawrinka, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Tomáš Berdych are the only players to have beaten each member of the Big Four at a Grand Slam event.

Wins over each member of the Big Four at a Grand Slam event

  • Stan Wawrinka, 9wins (defeated Murray at the 2010 and 2013 US Open and 2017 French Open; Nadal at the 2014 Australian Open; Federer at the 2015 French Open; and Djokovic at the 2014 Australian Open, 2015 French Open and 2016 & 2019 US Open).
  • Tomas Berdych, 6 wins (def. Murray at the 2010 French Open; Federer at the 2010 Wimbledon Championships and 2012 US Open; Djokovic at the 2010 and 2017 Wimbledon Championships; and Nadal at the 2015 Australian Open)
  • Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 5 wins (defeated Murray and Nadal at the 2008 Australian Open; Djokovic at the 2010 Australian Open; and Federer at the 2011 Wimbledon Championships and at the 2013 French Open)

Wins over three members of the Big Four at a Grand Slam event

  • Fernando Verdasco, 4 wins (def. Djokovic at the 2005 US Open; Murray at the 2009 Australian Open and 2018 US Open; and Nadal at the 2016 Australian Open)
  • Andy Roddick, 3 wins (defeated Nadal at the 2004 US Open; Djokovic at the 2009 Australian Open; and Murray at the 2009 Wimbledon Championships)
  • Marin Čilić, 3 wins (defeated Murray at the 2009 US Open; Federer at the 2014 US Open; and Nadal at the 2018 Australian Open)

Only four players have defeated 3 of the Big Four at the same tournament. Two of these players are members of the Big Four: Nadal who defeated Murray in the round of 16, Djokovic in the semi-finals, and Federer in the final to win the 2008 Hamburg Masters; and Federer who defeated Murray in the round robin round, Djokovic in the semi-finals, and Nadal in the finals to win the 2010 ATP World Tour Finals. The only two other players to have achieved this trifecta are:

  • David Nalbandian (defeated Nadal in the quarter-finals, Djokovic in the semi-finals, and Federer in the finals to win the 2007 Madrid Masters)
  • Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (defeated Djokovic in the round of 16, Murray in the quarterfinals, and Federer in the finals to win the 2014 Canada Masters)

Only two players have beaten a member of the Big Four in a major final. The first to do so was Juan Martin del Potro when he defeated Federer in the 2009 US Open final. Wawrinka defeated Nadal in the 2014 Australian Open final, and Djokovic in the 2015 Roland Garros final and the 2016 US Open final. In all 4 cases they defeated the world №1 in the process.

The Big Four have played in 100 tournaments where all four have competed. Collectively they have won 88 of these 100 tournaments (88%). Of the 12 tournaments they failed to win, they were runner-up in 6 of them, and 5 of these 12 tournaments occurred prior to them first being seeded as the Top 4 players (post-US Open 2008). Since this time in 2008, the Big Four have won 59 of 66 tournaments (89%). And starting with the 2010 Rome Masters, they had won 31 consecutive tournaments where all four were present, until the 2014 Australian Open.[152]

Only seven players have managed to win a tournament where all four of the Big Four have competed:

Conclusion

As of October 2020, Novak Djokovic has the most lifetime total for the most Grand Slam titles and the most titles from the 15 most important tournaments which includes the Grand Slams, Year-end championships, the Olympics and the 9 ATP Masters tournaments. Djokovic has 58 vs 56 from Nadal and 54 from Roger Federer so it’s too close to call at this point. We will need to revisit all of these numbers once all of them are finished playing years from now.

The Next Generation

While I have enjoyed this era of brilliant tennis, I am excited to see the next generation of great players already showing their brilliance on the tour with impressive wins over these legends.

Dominic Thiem (25) has recently defeated Nadal in a clay court final despite losing the last two French Open titles to him. He has also defeated Federer and Djokovic recently so he appears ready to challenge for number one and more majors.

Greek youngster, 21-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas also appears ready for the big time after beating Nadal on clay recently. He also won the 2019 ATP finals!

Alexander Zverev, also 21 years old, looks primed to challenge for the top spot and Grand Slams with Stefanos and Dominic for many years to come.

All of these young guns are pushing the legends harder each time they face off so I believe it’s just a matter of time before there is a changing of the guard.

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Paisano®

Writer. Born in Italy, raised in NJ. Work has appeared on @Mashable, @WebWorkerDaily, @Appolicious & elsewhere. Owner/Editor: @Dad_O_Matic