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TENNIS

Who has won the most Grand Slams? Nadal, Djokovic, Federer...

They will not be around forever of course; Nadal is 36, Federer 40 and Djokovic 35, and only the Serb would consider himself in perfect physical condition.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 10: Gentlemen's Singles Final Novak Djokovic (SRB) v Nick Kyrgios (AUS) - Novak Djokovic celebrates victory by holding the trophy during day fourteen of The Championships Wimbledon 2022 at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 10, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
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It is the most enduring rivalry in the history of tennis, and perhaps in any sport, team or individual. The Big Three of tennis: Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Three of the greatest players ever to pick up a racket, three of the finest athletes ever to bestride any sport, the Swiss, the Spaniard and the Serb have collected a huge number of Grand Slam titles between them over the past two decades since Federer claimed his first major at Wimbledon in 2003.

The only player within reach of the individual record of any one of the three is Pete Sampras, who won 14 slams. Sampras’ final major win came at the 2002 US Open, where he defeated Andre Agassi, his great rival, 12 years after they had first met in a slam final. By the time the 2003 tournament at Flushing Meadows came around, the new dynasty was on its way to being installed.

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After Federer won at the All-England Club, the Swiss maestro went on to claim 11 of the next 17 Grand Slam tournaments, with a youthful Nadal sweeping the crushed brick of Roland Garros for three consecutive titles between 2005-07. Then came Djokovic, who opened his account at the 2008 Australian Open, a tournament he has now won a record nine times. Federer has eight Wimbledons, Nadal 14 French Opens. Since the start of 2003, only Agassi, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Andy Roddick (all 2003), Gastón Gaudio (2004), Marat Safin (2005), Juan Martín del Potro (2009) Andy Murray (on three occasions), Stan Wawrinka (twice), Marin Cilic (2018), Dominic Thiem (2020) and Daniil Medvedev (2021) have won a major tournament in which at least one of the Big Three have featured.

Still waiting for the Next Gen

The Next Gen of tennis – the likes of Medvedev, Thiam, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alex Zverev – have yet to make a serious dent in the established order. Before the 2022 French Open, Zverev had never beaten a top-10 player at a slam and last year Djokovic hoovered up three of the four majors. This season, Nadal took his tally to 22 grand slams after winning at Roland Garros.

At Wimbledon on Sunday, Djokovic collected his 21st Grand Slam by winning Wimbledon for the fourth time in a row. The Serb beat Nick Kyrgios to clinch his seventh Wimbledon title, a victory that moves him to within one Grand Slam of Nadal. Federer currently has 20 Grand Slams.

They will not be around forever of course; Nadal is 36, Federer 40 and Djokovic 35, and only the Serb would consider himself in perfect physical condition. Federer has suffered a string of injuries, particularly in his knees, and Nadal is carrying a chronic foot problem that the Spanish great openly admits means every game could be his last. But for now, at least, with the occasional interjection from the Next Gen players, the Big Three still reign supreme.