The major problem with Rafael Nadal's US Open triumph

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor

Rafael Nadal’s victory in the US Open final has further emphasised the gap between tennis’ top three and the best of the rest.

Even though Daniil Medvedev took Nadal to five sets - the first player born in the 1990s to win two sets in a grand slam final - Nadal’s eventual victory made it 12 in a row for himself, Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic.

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Not since Stan Wawrinka’s victory at the US Open in 2016 has someone cracked the impressive streak of the Big Three.

You have to go even further back to the 2014 US Open to find a first-time grand slam champion in Marin Cilic.

Daniil Medvedev and Rafael Nadal with their respective trophies. (Photo by JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

Even more remarkably, the Federer-Nadal-Djokovic juggernaut has won 51 of the last 59 majors, with Wawrinka (3), Andy Murray (3), Cilic (1) and Juan Martin del Potro (1) the only men to get their names among the champions.

Compare that to the women's game, in which Bianca Andreescu's win over Serena Williams on Saturday made the 19-year-old Canadian the seventh first-time major champion in the past 11 events.

Andreescu gave the women a grand slam champion born in the 2000s before the men have had one who was born in the 1990s.

Change on the horizon?

Some took it as a sign that change was afoot when Nadal was the only member of the Big Three to get to the semi-finals at the US Open.

Djokovic, the defending champion and No. 1 seed, stopped while way behind in his fourth-round match, citing pain in his left shoulder.

Federer, dealing with a bad back, bowed out in five sets in the quarter-finals.

Too old for this?

Two 23-year-olds reached the semi-finals, Medvedev and Matteo Berrettini, so maybe this was the time for a younger man to hold a trophy?

Bianca Andreescu celebrates her US Open triumph. (Photo by Lev Radin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

No. Instead, Nadal became the first man in the professional era to win five majors after turning 30.

“I can say that I'm sure all of us, we're fighting our best to try to make this transition,” Medvedev said.

“It's really tough, because these guys, they are playing good tennis. I don't know what else to say. They are just playing amazing tennis.

“It's really tough to beat them, even to get a set from them.

“Even every game, to win, is tough. We're just doing our best job to try to make it happen sometimes.”

It’s also now been 13 majors in a row won by a player over the age of 30.

“That is not good,” Boris Becker said earlier this year.

“And don’t give me that the others are too good. We should question the quality and the attitude of everybody under 28. It just doesn’t make sense.”

with AP