It's true that great champions are like crown jewels of a sport, but too much of a good thing is often counterproductive. This is exactly what happened to ATP tennis until the year 2014 came along.
The Big Four of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have collectively won 36 of the last 39 Grand Slams – a mindboggling record that stretches back to 2003. In the preceding 10 years before this one, only once had men's tennis seen a Grand Slam champion other than the aforementioned quartet. That rare moment came in 2009 when an inspired Juan Martin del Potro broke this stranglehold and lifted the US Open title.
In the next four years, no one even took as much as a look as the Big Four clinched all of the 16 slams, dominated prize money, media exposure as well as the rankings. Their excellence surely did raise the profile of tennis and turned it into a truly global sport, but it came at the expense of excitement, entertainment and the element of surprise. Every sport needs its underdogs to succeed once in a while, but the adage 'every dog has its day' wasn't applicable to tennis.
The four majors – which used to be hotly anticipated events even until even the mid-2000s – suddenly became dour and a pointless exercise until the semi-finals. It's not like the 90s didn't have its dominant forces in Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, but they were nothing like the four beasts of this generation.
Fatigue, age, injuries and boredom – nothing slowed them down, until this year. Stanislas Wawrinka began the slam season by besting Nadal in the Australian Open final, which was followed by two first-time semifinalists in the Wimbledon last four.
On Monday, the Big Four's demise was further confirmed when two first-time finalists, Marin Cilic and kei nishikori, competed for the US Open title at Flushing Meadows. The towering Croat emerged victorious and leveled the slam count at 2-2 for the year against the Big Four.
Federer will be 34 next year, and Nadal's iffy fast court game has begun to get exposed more and more and while their decline by no means states that they are out of the running, it would come in as a welcome distraction. Their decline could also open up more opportunities for Djokovic and Murray. Additionally, it would also allow lesser known players who are really truly good at tennis their time in the limelight.