Will the 2024 Australian Open be a competition that marks the end of the era of the “Big Three” and the so-called “Penazo” that has been going on for more than 20 years.
For about 20 years from the mid-2000s to the early 2020s, men’s tennis was the era of the big three. The big three consisting of Roger Federer (43), dubbed the “emperor of tennis,” Rafael Nadal (38, Spain), and Novak Djokovic (37, Serbia), the “genius of left-handedness” and the “man of flawlessness,” have dominated the four major competitions.
The men’s singles final of the Australian Open, which will take place on Friday, has become the first event in 19 years where none of the top three players will play. Since the showdown between Marat Safin of Russia and Leighton Hewitt of Australia in the men’s singles final in 2005, two of the three players have advanced to the final or one of the three players has occupied the final spot for 18 years from 2006 to last year. “Penazo” is a new term coined by Korean tennis fans, who have long been the top three male tennis players, by picking up the initials of each of the three players’ last names.
Federer has already retired, and Nadal, who is likely to step down from active duty at the end of this year, declared his absence due to injury ahead of the opening of this year’s Australian Open. Djokovic, the current world No. 1, who is the only one of the big three to maintain his heyday, was completely defeated 1-3 (1-6, 2-6, 7-6<8-6> 3-6) by Jannik Sinner (4th, Italy) in the semifinals held on the 26th.
Shinner will face off against Daniil Medvedev of Russia. The final match will take place in Melbourne, Australia at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Korean time.
Penazo’s dominance has not been limited to the Australian Open. The French Open, which is considered Nadal’s sanctuary, also had at least one of the three players make it to the finals from 2005 to last year, and Wimbledon held a final without the Big Three only once in 20 years from 2003 to last year.
It is the first time in 10 years that a champion other than these “Big Three” will appear in the men’s singles at the Australian Open since Stan Wawrinka (Switzerland) in 2014.
With the end of the big three era closer than ever, the final between third seed Medvedev and fourth seed Sinner is a key point to see if Medvedev can quell Sinner’s fierce rise.
She met Djokovic four times from November last year to have three wins and one loss, and led her country Italy to the championship for the first time in 47 years at the Davis Cup, a national competition. She also lost a set scoreless streak in five matches through the quarterfinals and was the only one to lose a set against Djokovic in the semifinals, but failed to allow a single break point and lost the tiebreaker 6-8. Medvedev, on the other hand, went through a rough process to reach the final. The team played six matches through to the semifinals, and had three neck-and-neck competitions in five sets. In the second round against Emile Roussebuori (53rd, Finland) and Alexander Zverev (6th, Germany) in the semifinals, she lost first and second sets, and then secured third, fourth, and fifth sets, which took a lot of energy. Considering the combined time Shinner and Medvedev played to reach the final, there is a big difference of 14 hours and 44 minutes for Sinner and 20 hours and 33 minutes for Medvedev.
Coincidentally, Sinner played only one night game until the semifinals, but Medvedev was assigned three night games, including one that ended the next morning.
Medvedev also smiles at some point. Medvedev has six wins and three losses in their matches against each other. However, in the recent three showdowns held last year, Sinner has won all three of them.
Medvedev also has the upper hand in major competitions. While Medvedev won the U.S. Open in 2021, the U.S. Open in 2019 and 2023, and the Australian Open in 2021 and 2022, this is Sinner’s first major singles final. His previous best performance was in last year’s Wimbledon semifinals.
In the end, the key to Sinner’s recent sharp rise is how much Medvedev, who has won two come-from-behind victories in the tournament’s set score of 0-2, can suppress it.
Medvedev (198 cm tall, 83 kg) and Sinner (188 cm tall, 76 kg) are all slim-looking and right-handed. Medvedev, born in 1996, is five years older than Sinner, born in 2001.
“I beat Djokovic in the semifinals, but the tournament is not over yet. I still have things to show, and I have confidence in major tournaments from the second half of last year,” Sinner said.
“As I participated in the competition, I felt that I could do things that I didn’t think I could do,” Medvedev said. “I lost to Sinner in a row recently, but I had a chance to play the game as well.”