Stanislas Wawrinka’s breakthrough victory in the 2014 Australian Open is considered a rarity in the tennis landscape. After all, if one’s name isn’t Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic, it’d be considered a “shocker” when anybody aside from those “Big 3” wins a Grand Slam title the past ten years.
In the semifinals of the men’s singles competition at the 2014 Wimbledon Championship, only two—Federer and Djokovic-- of the dreaded trio remains in contention for the All England Club title with up-and-coming stars Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov looking to crash the championship round.
Wawrinka, the Swiss No. 2 for the longest time, and his win in Melbourne was considered a fluke by most (Rafael Nadal was injured/hurting in the final) but it did open up the doors for the young guys—or maybe, even all of the guys not named Federer, Nadal and Djokovic— to believe that it is possible: anyone can win a Grand Slam title.
Only five other players “believed” they could win it as the statistics the past 10 years in Grand Slam competitions have favored the Big 3 with a few wins here and there for the outsiders confirming the status of the divide between the trio and the rest of the field.
Since 2004, 36 of 42 Grand Slam titles have been won by one of Federer (16), Nadal (14) or Djokovic (6).
The five players who have been lucky enough to crash that list are: Gaston Gaudio of Argentina (2004 French Open); Marat Safin of Russia (2005 Australian Open); Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina in (2009 US Open); twice for Andy Murray of Great Britain (2012 US Open and 2013 Wimbledon); and lately, Wawrinka (2014 Australian Open).
Still there is a different feel in Wimbledon this year; with the rise of a few up and comers that have delivered the upsets in the most crucial and surprising times.
A total of 12 seeded players got the boot in the first and second rounds and none bigger than Nick Kyrgios’ (Australia) upset of Richard Gasquet (France) in the second round.
Other upsets by unseeded players include Andrey Kuznetsov (Russia) over David Ferrer (Spain) in the second round; Sergiy Stakhovsky (Ukraine) over Ernests Gulbis (Latvia) in the second round; qualifier Jimmy Wang (Taiwan) over Mikhail Youzhny (Russia) in the second round; and Marinko Matosevic (Australia) over Fernando Verdasco (Spain) in the first round among others.
The 19-year-old Kyrgios proved he was for real beating World No. 1 Nadal in four sets in the Round of 16. The day after, Dimitrov followed suit and pulled off the upset over Andy Murray in straight sets in the quarterfinals.
Now the final four includes 23-year-old players in Dimitrov and Raonic against surefire tennis Hall-of-Famers in Djokovic and Federer, both of whom are taking notes of the improvements of the up-and-comers.
“To be honest, if they lost, they lost to players who were better than them,” bluntly stated Djokovic when asked of the Nadal and Murray upset losses.
“But, again, it shows and it proves that Grand Slam you cannot underestimate any opponents. There are new young players like Kyrgios and Dimitrov that are challenging the best and are winning against the best players in the world. That's why they deserve to be where they are now.”
For his part, the 32-year-old Federer is glad that there are young ones trying to take over the top players’ spots.
“We like these kind of stories from time to time in the tennis world, a youngster coming through the rankings so quickly,” shared the former World No. 1 in the tournament's official website.
“Yeah, I mean, it's exciting, you know, for the game to see new faces like Kyrgios, now Raonic or Nishikori, you name it. There's been a few guys knocking on the door now. Still don't have enough teenagers like I would hope we had.
Will Federer and Djokovic assure that one of the “Big 3” will win again in this Grand Slam? Or will Raonic, Dimitrov or both start the changing of the guard in tennis by making the final of the 2014 Wimbledon Championship?