Since 2004, the men’s tennis world has been blessed with what some have called the Golden Era of the sport.
The big reason for that is the emergence and dominance of the Big Four — Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
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This quartet has stood above the rest of the field for the last 15 years, winning 48 of the last 53 Grand Slam tournaments while dominating the top four spots of the ATP rankings.
And though Federer and Nadal have made career comebacks to split the last six Slam finals, all four players are in their 30’s and eventually a day will come when the Big Four steps off the court for good.
There have been a number of young, up-and-comers who have been considered the next “big thing,” but so far none has managed to officially knock the game’s best from their perch.
When that time eventually comes, who stands the best chance to take that mantle? Here’s a look at seven players, 25 or younger, who could be part of tennis’ next Big Four (all ages and ATP rankings as of June 22).
Alexander Zverev, Germany
Current ATP ranking: 3
Right now, it looks like Zverev is the closest thing to a lock for the next Big Four as they come. He rose quickly through the junior rankings and began making noise as a 17-year-old pro, quickly becoming a regular in the most popular ATP and Grand Slam tournaments, even defeating Federer in the 2016 Halle Open.
Zverev has since won three Masters 1000 titles (Rome, Canada, Madrid) and made his first quarterfinals appearance at the 2018 French Open while rising to No. 3 in the world. The German is only 21 so inconsistency is expected, but he has impressive wins over both Djokovic and Federer and has pushed Nadal to the limit on numerous occasions. Zverev is also just the fifth active player to have won at least three Masters titles. The other four? The Big Four.
Dominic Thiem, Austria
Current ATP ranking: 7
The oldest player on this list, Thiem has had the most Grand Slam success out of any of the young players on tour. He turned pro in 2011 and wasted no time going deep in several tournaments with two quarterfinal appearances in a pair of ATP Tour 250 events in 2013.
Thiem began competing in the Grand Slam tournaments in 2013 but hasn’t made it past the fourth round in any aside from the French Open, where he has reached the semifinals in each of the last three years including a runner-up finish in 2018. The Austrian has defeated each of the Big Four and even taken down Nadal on clay. He also has the head-to-head advantage on Zverev, 5-2.
Nick Kyrgios, Australia
Current ATP ranking: 21
The controversial Australian is only 23 and though there may be concern about his commitment to the game, there’s no denying Kyrgios has the potential to become a Grand Slam winner.
He broke onto the scene at Wimbledon in 2014, reaching the quarterfinals as a wild card and beating Nadal to get there. Kyrgios followed that with another quarterfinals appearance at the 2015 Australian Open. He hasn’t had a tremendous amount of recent Grand Slam or ATP Tour success with just four titles (one ATP Tour 500, three ATP Tour 250), but his recent run at the 2017 Cincinnati Masters and his latest battle with Federer in the 2018 Mercedes Cup proved just how well he can play.
Denis Shapovalov, Canada
Current ATP ranking: 23
The youngest player on this list and in the entire top 100 (and youngest to crack the top 30 since 2005), Shapovalov has a long way to go before he can be considered a consistent contender, but he has shown enough flashes to warrant attention.
The Canadian teenager first raised eyebrows when he reached the semifinals of the 2017 Canadian Open, defeating Juan Martin del Potro and Nadal in the process. He followed that up with a run to the fourth round of the U.S. Open as a qualifier and has since taken down some of the game’s top players as he’s climbed the rankings.
Hyeon Chung, South Korea
Current ATP ranking: 20
It may be a stretch and an uphill climb to put Chung in this group, but if his performance at the 2018 Australian Open is any indication, the South Korean could become a Grand Slam title contender.
Before the 2018 Aussie Open, Chung’s claim to fame was his Next Gen Finals championship. Since then, Chung has been a consistent competitor on the ATP Tour, reaching the quarterfinals at Indian Wells and Miami in 2018. At 22, there’s still a good chance Chung could improve and crack the top 10.
Kyle Edmund, Great Britain
Current ATP ranking: 17
Edmund has slowly crept up the rankings and with the injury issues of Andy Murray, is now the top-ranked British man. Edmund started his career winning two junior Slam titles in doubles and broke onto the scene in 2015 helping Great Britain win the Davis Cup for the first time in 79 years.
He hasn’t had great success in Grand Slam tournaments yet, but his semifinal run at the 2018 Australian Open and his quarterfinal appearance at the 2018 Madrid Open showed flashes of what could come for Edmund.
Andrey Rublev, Russia
Current ATP ranking: 32
Another very young player, Rublev might be the longest shot at potentially cracking the top of the ATP rankings. His junior career was littered with successful ATP Challenger and ITF Futures finals, but his young pro career leaves something to be desired.
His biggest accomplishments so far have been his ATP Tour 250 win at the Croatia Open in 2017 and his quarterfinal run at the 2017 U.S. Open, where he defeated both Grigor Dmitrov and David Goffin in straight sets. The Russian still has a long way to go before being close to the others on this list, but from what he’s shown at such a young age, a rise up the rankings isn’t out of the question.