There’s a new world No. 1 in men’s tennis. Daniil Medvedev took the top spot following Novak Djokovic’s loss to Jiří Veselý in the Dubai Tennis Championships on Thursday, making him the first man other than Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Djokovic or Andy Murray to wear the crown since February 2004.
The fact that only four players were ranked No. 1 over the past 18 years is even more remarkable considering that 10 different men cycled through during the previous five years.
More than anything, the sheer longevity of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic stands out. Pete Sampras spent more total weeks at No. 1 in the 1990s than Federer in the 2000s or Djokovic in the 2010s. However, each of the Big Three held claim to the spot more than 10 years apart, which no other player has ever done. In fact, the 14-year span between Federer’s first and last dates at No. 1 was as long as Sampras’s entire professional career.
Djokovic’s 361 cumulative weeks at No. 1 is the current record, but his ability to return to the top is in jeopardy due to his vaccine status, which may prevent him from playing upcoming tournaments. The Serbian already missed the Australian Open after his visa was revoked, and with it, the potential 2000 ATP ranking points to be earned with a victory down under. The French Open, set for late May, will require vaccines with no exemptions, according to the French Sports Ministry, although the situation could change over the upcoming three months. Djokovic has stated that he’s willing to miss Grand Slam tournaments rather than be forced to get the vaccine.
Medvedev leads third-place Alexander Zverev by almost 1000 points, and could be in position to stay atop the rankings for much of this year, if not longer. Nadal, meanwhile, is ranked 5th and Federer 29th after missing the past seven months with a knee injury. And Medvedev is poised for long-term financial success: according to Sportico’s estimates, the Russian is already the highest-paid men’s tennis player under the age of 30, and his endorsement deal with Lacoste runs through 2026.
For the 12 months ending on May 31, 2021, Medvedev earned just shy of $15 million, $10 million of which came off the court. That’s a hefty sum, but leaves him well short of the $26 million in earnings needed to make the list of the top 100 highest-paid athletes in the world, on which Federer, Nadal and Djokovic each sit, along with Kei Nishikori, Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka.
The Big Three have won 61 of the past 74 Grand Slam tournaments, including 18 of the past 20. Medvedev’s first major title at the U.S. Open in September helped him climb in the rankings, but Nadal’s victory over him in Melbourne last month showed that, after nearly two decades, the Big Three aren’t going anywhere just yet.