In the world of sports, European football, cricket, American football, baseball, and basketball usually get the most international coverage. Those sports possess legions of rabid fans who love to immerse themselves in the news and culture of competition.
Usually, the men’s professional tennis circuit occupies a much smaller piece of real estate in the consciousness of the average sports fan. But that may all be about to change.
The surge of electricity flowing through the men’s professional tennis tour could shatter the virtual glass ceiling of popularity that has characterized the sport over the last decade.
The reason is rooted in a group of players commonly referred to as the “Big 3.” A group that arguably includes the three best players in tennis history—or at worst three of the best five (Rod Laver being another).
These three are none other than Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Together, the Big 3 have won a combined 54 majors, which accounts for roughly 13.5 years of play (at four majors per year).
As a reminder, the four most important tennis tournaments in any given year are the Australian Open (Melbourne), the French Open (Paris), Wimbledon (London) and the U.S. Open (New York). They are known collectively as the “majors” or the “Grand Slams.”
Players winning the Slams not only earn the biggest paychecks of the season, but also the most ranking points. And while the Big 3 are now all over the age of 30, these living legends still unquestionably dominate the tour.
With three of the four majors are already in the books for 2019, the stage is now set for an extremely dynamic U.S. Open in New York, set for Aug. 26 to Sept. 8.
And while the quality on-court this season has been jaw-dropping, it’s the individual records in play that are driving the current narrative. As of now, every Grand Slam played in the next two to three years will likely have epic historical ramifications.
The rationale behind that assertion is that the Big 3 now rank No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 in the historical Slam count. Roger Federer, one of the most popular players ever, is five years older than Djokovic/Nadal and holds the all-time record with 20 majors.
However, Nadal and Djokovic are nipping closely at Federer’s heels and arguably have steeper overall career trajectories than the Swiss player. Nadal and Djokovic have won 18 and 16 majors, respectively, and also occupy the top two spots in the world rankings.
That means that after the 2019 U.S. Open, Rafael Nadal could theoretically be only one major behind Federer, or Djokovic only one behind Nadal.
Alternatively, Federer could continue to outrun the biological clock and nab his record-breaking 21st Slam, which he nearly did at Wimbledon earlier in the summer.
There’s also a lengthy list of other reasons to tune into the 2019 U.S. Open.
At the top of the list is the fact that the final Slam of the season also happens to be the one where the Big 3 arguably hold the weakest grip. Meaning the three have only won a combined 11 of the last 15 editions of the tournament. Gasp.
Astoundingly, when compared with the other three majors, that does represent a looser grip.
At Wimbledon the Big 3 have won 14 of the last 16. At the French Open they’ve won 14 of the last 16. At the Australian Open they’ve won 14 of the last 16. Anyone sensing a pattern
While few would bet against a member of the Big 3 coming out on top in New York this year, a glimmer of hope still exists for “the field.” The other four players who have won the U.S. Open during the Big 3 era include Marin Cilic, Andy Murray, Juan Martin Del Potro and Stan Wawrinka. However, each of those four has battled injury at some point during 2018 or 2019.
Before the U.S. Open, several tournaments lead up to the main event. Of these smaller tournaments, the wide open for Djokovic or Federer. Surprisingly, a young up-and-comer by the name of Daniil Medvedev stole the show in Ohio. Medvedev also underscored his rise as a potential contender in New York by beating Novak Djokovic along the way.
Interestingly, Medvedev made the finals in Canada, too, but was swept aside rather convincingly by Nadal with a scoreline of 6-3, 6-0.
Looking back at the last 10 years in New York, Djokovic and Nadal have each won the U.S. Open three times, while Federer last won the tournament in 2008.
Considering those statistics, and each of the players’ respective forms during the last few weeks, it’s no surprise that the bookmakers have assigned the betting edge for the 2019 U.S. Open to Djokovic.
But keep in mind that with Federer going on 38 years old, this may truly be his last, best shot in New York. That provides yet another reason to tune in when play begins.
Here is how the betting lines are shaping up for the 2019 U.S. Open. The current odds are as follows: Djokovic (+120), Nadal (+400) and Federer (+750). Daniil Medvedev—who made the Canada final and won in Cincinnati—rounds out the Top 4, but is well behind at +1800, according to oddschecker.com.
Looking for the best-value bet? Nadal at +400 pays a handsome $400 for every $100 wagered.
Andrew Prochnow, an avid, longtime options trader, has contributed previously to the Bleacher Report and Yahoo! Sports.