2023 marks the 20-year anniversary of the beginning of the most dominant era in tennis history.
Roger Federer won his maiden Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2003, ushering in the beginning of his dominance. In 2005, it became a duopoly atop the men’s tour with Rafael Nadal. Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray soon joined the club that became known as the “Big Four.”
While the Big Four dominated the ATP Tour at practically every stop, nowhere were they so far ahead of the rest as at Wimbledon, where they have combined to win every title since 2003.
To put that in perspective, since 2003, six different men have won the Australian Open and French Open, while 10 have claimed the US Open.
Carlos Alcaraz is the top seed at Wimbledon this year, the first time since the year Federer won his maiden title that a man outside the Big Four is the top seed at the All-England Club.
Read also: Wimbledon gets rolling
Lleyton Hewitt was the No. 1 seed that year. He was the defending champion, making him also the last non-Big Four member to win Wimbledon. Here is what the last 20 years have looked like at the All-England Club.
Top Seed - Champion
- 2003: Hewitt, Federer
- 2004: Federer, Federer
- 2005: Federer, Federer
- 2006: Federer, Federer
- 2007: Federer, Federer
- 2008: Federer, Nadal
- 2009: Nadal*, Federer
- 2010: Federer, Nadal
- 2011: Nadal, Djokovic
- 2012: Djokovic, Federer
- 2013: Djokovic, Murray
- 2014: Djokovic, Djokovic
- 2015: Djokovic, Djokovic
- 2016: Djokovic, Murray
- 2017: Murray, Federer
- 2018: Federer, Djokovic
- 2019: Djokovic, Djokovic
- 2021: Djokovic, Djokovic
- 2022: Djokovic, Djokovic
*Nadal was the top seed but withdrew, Federer was left as the highest seed
Not only have the Big Four won every title at Wimbledon since 2003, most years the rest of the field did not even have much of a chance. Nine of the 19 finals since were contested exclusively by members of the Big Four.
Big Four Finals:
- 2006: Federer d. Nadal in 4 sets
- 2007: Federer d. Nadal in 5 sets
- 2008: Nadal d. Federer in 5 sets
- 2011: Djokovic d. Nadal in 4 sets
- 2012: Federer d. Murray in 4 sets
- 2013: Murray d. Djokovic in 3 sets
- 2014: Djokovic d. Federer in 5 sets
- 2015: Djokovic d. Federer in 4 sets
- 2019: Djokovic d. Federer in 5 sets
And these were often not just any finals.
The 2007, 2008, and 2019 clashes are often listed among the best finals in tennis history. The 2008 final between Federer and Nadal in particular, with the Spaniard ending his Swiss rival’s bid for a would-be-record sixth consecutive title in near darkness after four hours and 48 minutes, a then-record for a Grand Slam final, is widely considered to be the greatest tennis match ever played.
In 2013, Murray ended the host nation’s 77-year wait for a British champion by defeating Djokovic in what is to date the Serb’s lone finals loss at Wimbledon.
Read also: Djokovic Leads Wimbledon Field
Wimbledon finals saw nearly every combination of the Big Four meet over the years. The only exception was Nadal and Murray, who twice met in the semifinals but never with the trophy on the line.
Overall, there have been 17 clashes between the Big Four at the All-England Club. Here is the breakdown:
- Federer leads Nadal 3-1 (2-1 in finals)
- Djokovic leads Nadal 2-1 (1-0 in finals)
- Nadal leads Murray 3-0
- Murray leads Djokovic 1-0 (1-0 in finals)
- Federer leads Murray 2-0 (1-0 in finals)
- Djokovic leads Federer 3-1 (3-0 in finals)
It is interesting to note that each of them has a winning record over at least one of the others. Wimbledon is the only of the four majors where that is the case.
Only a couple of men have come close to breaking the dominance of the Big Four. Since 2003, eight men have reached the final of Wimbledon, only to lose to a Big Four member. Andy Roddick came the closest, reaching three finals but losing to Federer each time, including their epic five-setter in 2009 when the Swiss did not break serve until the 30th and final game of the fifth set.
There were nearly four more all-Big Four finals, with a member of the quartet losing in the semis.
Here are the men who managed to sneak into a Wimbledon final during their stretch of domination:
- 2003: Mark Philipoussis (l. to Federer in 3 sets)
- 2004: Andy Roddick (l. to Federer in 4 sets)
- 2005: Andy Roddick (l. to Federer in 3 sets)
- 2009: Andy Roddick (l. to Federer in 5 sets)*
- 2010: Tomas Berdych (l. to Nadal in 3 sets)*
- 2016: Milos Raonic (l. to Murray in 3 sets)*
- 2017: Marin Cilic (l. to Federer in 3 sets)
- 2018: Kevin Anderson (l. to Djokovic in 3 sets)
- 2021: Matteo Berrettini (l. to Djokovic in 4 sets)
- 2022: Nick Kyrgios (l. to Djokovic in 4 sets)**
*Beat a Big Four member in the semis
**Kyrgios was scheduled to play Nadal in the semifinals, but was granted a walkover due to an injury.
Such domination as the Big Four have had at this event is truly unprecedented and unlikely to be seen again any time soon.
It is worth noting that one event with a similar record of domination by the Big Four is the National Bank Open! From 2004 to 2019, they won all but two titles in Canada with each member of the Big Four claiming at least two.
The ATP's best return to Toronto this summer for the National Bank Open August 5 to 13 at Sobeys Stadium. Tickets are on sale. Get your tickets today!