The Big 3 since 2003: The US Open as the Best Opportunity for Everyone Else

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Roger Federer did not win his first major until July 2003.  Rafael Nadal picked up his first major in June 2005.  Novak Djokovic won his maiden slam in January 2008.  Even if one starts with the Australian Open 2003, the Big 3 have posted similar levels of domination at the first 3 majors of the calendar year while the US Open has remained slightly more hospitable to the non-Big 3 field.

Big 3 Australian Open titles since 2003: 13 of 16 for 81.25% of singles titles 

Exceptions: Andre Agassi 2003, Marat Safin 2005, Stan Wawrinka 2014

Big 3 French Open titles since 2003: 13 of 16 for 81.25% of singles titles

Exceptions: Juan Carlos Ferrero 2003, Gaston Gaudio 2004, Stan Wawrinka 2015

Big 3 Wimbledon titles since 2003: 14 of 16 for 87.5% of singles titles

Exception: Andy Murray 2013 & 2016


Big 3 US Open titles since 2003: 10 of 15 for 66.67% of singles titles

Exceptions: Andy Roddick 2003, Juan Martin del Potro 2009, Andy Murray 2012, Marin Cilic 2014, and Stan Wawrinka 2016


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The Big 3 ONLY winning 2/3rds of the US Open events since Federer’s grand slam breakthrough year of 2003 is not great consolation for the field.  Neither is Rafael Nadal’s 2018 title in Canada.  Nor is Novak Djokovic’s 2018 title in Cincinnati.

Still, the Big 3 have been more dominant at the other 3.  This is especially true if one considers that an exception for the Australian and French Opens took place prior to any of the big 3 winning a major.  If we started just with Federer’s breakthrough, the Australian and French Open Big 3 title percentage jumps to 86.67%.

Why is the US Open More Hospitable?  Some guesses

  1. Surface Speed helps a player win a 3 of 5 set match with a big serving day
  2. By August/September, players have time to find their best form
  3. By August/September, nagging injuries can be more fully felt by players such as the Big 3 who tend to make deep runs in events
  4. The Big 3 have had fewer all Big 3 finals on Hard Courts: Djokovic vs. Federer, Federer vs. Nadal & Djokovic vs. Nadal  have cobined for 3 Australian Open finals and 3 US Open finals whereas Nadal has beaten Federer or Djokovic in 6 championship matches.  At Wimbledon, Djokovic is 2-0 vs Federer and 1-0 vs. Nadal in championship matches while Federer is 2-1 vs Nadal in championship matches.

Do the greater variety of finalists in hard court majors when combined with the calendar effects of a major in August/September and a surface that allows for more free points add up to a weaker grip on the trophy by the Big 3?  Maybe.

For the 125 non-Big 3 members in the draw, there should be some cause for measured hope entering the 2018 US Open draw.  Still, the Big 3 have won 2/3rds of US Opens held since 2003 and a Big 3 title this year would push Big 3 dominace into closer agreement with their dominace in the other 3 majors.

 

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