Daniil Medvedev celebrates after winning a point. (Andy Brownbill/Associated Press)

The world-renowned Big 4: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Andy Murray. They have dominated the men’s tennis circuit for the majority of the 21st century. Together, they hold 63 grand slam titles, and more importantly, hold the pride of changing the sport of tennis forever. Though some of the group is still competing at a high level, the downfall of the Big 4 is inevitable. With Djokovic and Murray at age 34, Nadal at 35, and Federer at 39, we can’t expect to see too much of these legends 3-4 years down the line. However, we can expect to see a new generation of future legends who take over the title for the Big 4. Below, I predict and rank the up-and-coming generation of tennis.

Honorable Mentions

Denis Shapovalov – Canada

Felix Auger Aliassime – Canada

Nick Kyrgois – Australia

4. Andrey Rublev – Russia

Positives

Coming in at number 4, Rublev stands at 6 foot 2 and 23 years of age. Andrey Rublev has had a great start to his career and turned heads in 2020 when he won 5 ATP tour titles and climbed up the rankings. Today, he is ranked world number 7. What I like most about Rublev is his mighty forehand. The spin isn’t what makes the forehand impressive, but instead, it’s the speed. He attacks each and every forehand ball and hits more on the flatter side to make for depth and power. Specifically, his inside-out forehand stands out. Often, he will hit an inside-out forehand to the same quadrant of the court multiple times. And, though his opponent may expect it, it’s just too precise and powerful to be returned effectively.

Negatives

Aside from Rublev’s forehand, his game is great but not spectacular. Taking into consideration that Rublev is a baseline heavy player, he definitely needs to work on his backhand. There’s a high level of consistency to the backhand, but the speed and spin still need to improve. It’s an aspect of his game that differentiates Andrey from other players ranked above him.

Another reason I can’t put Rublev higher on this list is because of his experience with his past dealt injuries. Unfortunately, despite Rublev’s young age, he has gone through a lower back fracture and a right wrist injury. However, he has recovered and trained to come back stronger and has had even more success after the injuries. This trait allows me to believe that Rublev is capable of patching up the holes in his game, which could potentially move him up this list. Expect to see Rublev as a part of the future Big 4.

3. Stefanos Tsitipas – Greece

Positives

A player I definitely expect to be part of the future Big 4 is Tsitispas. He is built stronger and taller than Andrey Rublev at 6 feet 4 inches. Despite Tsitipas’s young age of 22, he has risen to fame because of his 7 ATP tour titles, and more notably, his 2021 performance at Roland Garros. Throughout the tournament, Stefanos played incredibly and made it to the finals, where he lost to Djokovic in 5 sets. Though he lost, his capabilities and play style attracted a lot of attention.

Tennis fans from around the world, including me, jumped to compare Stefanos to one of the greatest players of tennis, Roger Federer. The defining part of this comparison is the silky smooth backhand of Stefanos, which is almost a mirror image to Rogers. I thought Stefanos was able to advance so far into the tournament because of his massive serve, comparable to Federer’s. The primary reason I think Stefanos will lead a successful career is because of his violent baseline play, but more importantly his differentiating factor from others’ on this list which is the option for him to move up to the net, and put a volley away. His tall stature and hefty service allow for a much deeper variety in gameplay compared to player’s who don’t have an outstanding service.

Negatives

The part of Stefanos’s game I can’t quite vouch for is his consistency. With his smooth as butter backhand and massive serve comes the part of Tsitipas’s game that needs improvement. Though most other aspects of his game were positives in my book, consistency is too large of a factor when defining a soon-to-be legend. Fortunately for Stefanos, he recognizes his weak point and is confident he will work towards gaining consistency. The ATP Staff explain Stefanos’s thoughts, “Consistency has always been at the top of my priorities as a player, and it has been difficult to find that kind of secret recipe where you get all the consistency and you can play consistently week by week,”… “But I think it’s something you build up with confidence, with experience, and eventually you just find the pattern. You find the way it works for you.”

Stefanos Tsitispas is definitely a name you can expect to see at world number 1, as long as he can work on finding his recipe of consistency. Otherwise, the Greek player has all signs pointing towards success in the future.

2. Alexander Zverev – Germany

Positives

A fierce competitor we have seen on the tour since 2013, Alexander Zverev is a personal lock for the future Big 4 of tennis. Zverev has a significant height advantage over Tsitipas and Rublev, standing at 6 foot 6 inches, and being 24 years old. Zverev has progressed to become a well-recognized face on the tour, for good reasons. He holds 15 ATP tour titles to his name, more than anyone else on this list.

Zverev usually plays an aggressive baseline-heavy match, paired with a strong serve. You can expect to see consistent groundstrokes packed with the power out of Zverev. In terms of groundstrokes, his backhand stands out to me because of the depth and power he develops with it. Not only does he pack a punch on the backhand, but he is also capable of changing the pace of the match by adding in a slice or two. This aspect of Zverev’s style makes him diverse as a player, yet in a different way than others on this list.

Negatives

As far as weaknesses are concerned, I think Zverev needs to improve his net-play drastically. This is the most essential part of his game, and he must patch it up because of how much of a height advantage he has over other players. If Zverev could develop solid technique in terms of net-play, he could be a dangerous triple threat. His very tall stature is what anyone wanting to diversify their game into a more net-heavy style could wish for.

Similarly, Zverev’s footwork seems off at times and forces him to have to hit the ball off the wrong foot or the wrong angle. Lastly, his mental game often brings him into a slump when things are not going in his direction, and this needs to change if Zverev wants to compete at the highest level. Though I listed more weaknesses for Zvere than the above two players, I still think his positives outweigh the negatives, which should be an easy fix for Zverev if he concentrates on them. Zverev has all the attributes to be a top player for a long time.

Daniil Medvedev – Russia

Positives

Being the second Russian on this list, I’m ready to say that Daniil Medvedev is destined to be the greatest of the future Big 4. He stands at the same height as Zverev at 6 feet 6 inches and is the oldest of the 4 on this list, at 25. Being ranked world number 2, Medvedev has already taken over most of the current Big 4, being ahead of all except Novak Djokovic.

I have Daniil at number one on this list primarily because of his unusual but effective playstyle. Medvedev plays from mostly the baseline and exhibits rock-solid defense, which allows him to offset the position of his opponents throughout the match. Yet, his serve is anything but defensive. Taking advantage of his great height, Medvedev hammers his first serve, allowing for several aces every match. Groundstrokes are yet another strength for Daniil, and his very unconventional forehand leaves his opponent with questions on how to combat the shot. Rather than taking a full backswing and then accelerating and attacking the ball, Daniil takes a very short backswing and then hits the ball in a quick slapping motion. This allows for depth and speed.

However, more impressive than any part of so far listed attributes is Medvedev’s backhand. Precision and depth are his focuses when hitting with the two-hand backhand, and his only higher-up, Novak Djokovic, has complimented the shot. After Novak lost to Daniil in 2019, Novak described Daniil as a very complete player with a backhand that is hard to break down. You can expect to see Daniil at world number one before anyone else on this list, and for the long term.

Negatives

After the list of positives, it might be hard to believe that Medvedev has weaknesses. Based on what I’ve seen, I wouldn’t rate Medvedev’s mental game to be top of the line. Temper tantrums are a part of his game, and I do think it negatively affects the way he plays. Secondly, Daniil admittedly has a lanky body structure and therefore doesn’t have the power some other players on this list have. Based on his capability to improve other parts of his game, I am confident in Daniil’s ability to put on some muscle and round off his entire game.

Daniil will undoubtedly be a world number 1 and will be the face of the Big 4 for several years. I think he has the most complete game out of anyone else on this list. And the fact that we’ve seen his ability to compete and sometimes beat the current Big 4 proves his potential to hang with the best. I don’t see a reason to doubt Medvedev, even with his lanky structure.

Closing Thoughts On The Future Big 4

Despite our hopes of the Big 4 to never retire from tennis, eventually, they will have to leave the tour for good. The future generation does have big shoes to fill in terms of dominance and the excitement they provide to fans around the world, but the players in my top 4 all have great potential and play styles. Of course, that comes along with weaknesses that I do believe can be improved with experience on the tour. Only time will tell who makes up the future Big 4 and how they rank, but I can confidently say that we as fans won’t be disappointed.


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