Is this the year the new guard replace the old order or will Novak, Rafa and Roger reign supreme once again? Andy Swales provides a form guide for the opening Grand Slam of the new decade...
"The Young Guns, namely Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev, all represented their countries at the recently revamped ATP Cup. But it was a Djokovic-led Serbia which emerged victorious, beating Nadal’s Spain in the final."
The Australian Open at Melbourne ushers in a new decade of Grand Slam tennis but will it signify the start of a new era for the men's game?
After more than a dozen years of domination by Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic, there were signs - albeit small ones - that a new order was beginning to take shape during 2019.
However, 2020, despite being barely a couple of weeks old, is already showing signs that the Big Three are not yet ready to be dislodged from the summit of the men's tennis tree.
The Young Guns, namely Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev, all represented their countries at the recently revamped ATP Cup, which was spread across the Australian cities of Brisbane, Perth and Sydney.
But it was a Djokovic-led Serbia which emerged victorious, beating Nadal's Spain in the final. Federer's Switzerland opted not to compete.
The last 12 male Slams have been scooped up by the Big Three, which extends to even more remarkable stats if you go back to January 2005.
As for the last 60 Slams, it reads: Nadal 19, Federer 16, Djokovic 16, Andy Murray 3, Stan Wawrinka 3, Juan Martin del Potro 1, Marin Cilic 1, Marat Safin 1.
Check out the latest men's singles betting for the forthcoming Australian Open
Djokovic arrives in Melbourne chasing an eighth Australian Open singles crown. Nadal, meanwhile, with four final defeats in Australia since 2012, still requires one more victory in this event to become the first player in more than 50 years to win all four Slams at least twice.
And 20-Slam winner Federer, now 38, is seeking a third Melbourne title in the last four years.
So what advances did the Young Guns make during 2019?
Stefanos Tsitsipas: Claimed the biggest title of his career by winning the end-of-season ATP Tour finals at the O2 Arena, London, in November. All Big Three players took part, with the 21-year-old from Greece seeing off Federer in the semi-finals, en route to lifting the prestigious trophy. Is currently the world No 6.
Dominic Thiem: In the current climate, 26-year-old Thiem can still be viewed as one of the up-and-coming stars of the men's game. Yet it is worth remembering that both Federer and Nadal had already reached double figures in terms of Slam successes, by the time they had celebrated their 26th birthdays. During 2019, the Austrian reached a second French Open final - having beaten Djokovic in the last four - and earlier in the year clinched his maiden Masters Series title at Indian Wells. On the hot and hard courts of California he dispatched Federer to lift the trophy and later lost the O2 final to Tsitsipas.
Daniil Medvedev: Came mighty close to breaking the Big Three's stranglehold at Flushing Meadows in September when he took Nadal to five sets in the final of the US Open. He reached three hard court Masters Series finals during 2019, winning two of them, and ended the year as world No 4. The Russian turns 24 next month.
Alexander Zverev: Appears to have tread water a little over the last couple of years. Slipped from fourth to seventh in the ATP World Rankings during the past 12 months but remains a threat. The German won the ATP Tour Finals in 2018 and is a three-time Masters Series champion.
Behind this group of four are six more youngsters on the verge of making their breakthrough in the men's game.
They are Russian Karen Khachanov, Alex de Minaur of Australia, Canadian duo Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime, as well as Matteo Berrettini of Italy, plus Andrey Rublev who is also from Russia.
Auger-Aliassime is still a teenager, while Sydney-born de Minaur - who is coached by Aussie Davis Cup skipper Lleyton Hewitt - will be keen to perform well on home soil.
However, if any members of this new breed of stars are hoping to make their breakthrough Down Under this month, they will almost certainly have to overcome the old guard of Novak, Rafa and Roger to do so. And if recent events are anything to go by, then the Big Three still appear reluctant to hand over their jealously-guarded mantle just yet.
Twitter: Andy Swales@GolfStatsAlive
Key For Slam Events Table: 10 - '19 US Open; 9 - '19 Wimbledon; 8 - '19 French Open; 7 - '19 Australian Open; 6 - '18 US Open; 5 - '18 Wimbledon; 4 - '18 French Open; 3 - '18 Australian Open; 2 - '17 US Open; 1 - '17 Wimbledon
Last 10 Grand Slam Results (selected players)
|Roberto Bautista Agut||Rd-1||SF||Rd-3||QF||Rd-1||Rd-3||Rd-1||Rd-3||Rd-4|
|Alex de Minaur||Rd-4||Rd-2||Rd-2||Rd-3||Rd-3||Rd-3||Rd-1||Rd-1||Rd-1|
|Pablo Carreno Busta||Rd-3||Rd-1||Rd-3||Rd-4||Rd-2||Rd-1||Rd-3||Rd-4||SF|
|Juan Ignacio Londero||Rd-2||Rd-1||Rd-4|
|Roberto Carballes Baena||Rd-1||Rd-1||Rd-2||Rd-1||Rd-2||Rd-1||Rd-1|
|Alejandro Davidovich Fokina||Rd-1|