Comparing The Golden Eras Of Women’s And Men’s Tennis

(Photo Credits: Metro)

Novak Djokovic’s straight set win over Juan Martin Del Potro at the US Open created a rare instance where the three leading men (in terms of numbers) in Singles Tennis, are all active during the same time.

With 51 Grand slam titles among them, this is undoubtedly the golden period for tennis. But the overall competitiveness in the recent times is a questionable one as the titles are won repeatedly these three men. Or, there’s just another argument to be made that Djokovic, Nadal and Federer are just that good.

Number of unique Grand slam winners in the Open era (Men)

Time Period Grand slam winners
1970-79 16
1980-89 12
1990-99 16
2000-09 15
2010- 6


With just 6 players, the current decade has seen the least number of players winning the title and it is unlikely to see a change in the upcoming year to round off the decade either.


Grand Slam winners since 2010

Player Number of titles
Novak Djokovic 13
Rafael Nadal 11
Roger Federer 5
Stan Wawrinka 3
Andy Murray 3
Marin Cilic 1


The big three comprising Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have created a mini league in the last two years as they shared all the 8 titles among them.

In fact, 2002 was the last year where none of the three won any of the four grand slams. Wawrinka, Murray and Cilic are the only other new entrants in the grand slam winners list, and this is also the lowest number in the open era.

New Grand slam winners in open era

Time Period Number of new winners
1970-79 14
1980-89 9
1990-99 13
2000-09 12
2010- 3


The dominance of the big three is cherished by their respective fans but for the neutrals, it has created extreme predictability as the familiar faces reached the finals of tournaments repeatedly.

Astonishingly, only five grand slam finals were contested without these three in the last 15 years.


Finals not featuring any one of the big three (Since Roger Federer’s maiden grand slam)

Year Grand slam Finalists
2003 US Open Andy Roddick & Juan Carlos Ferrero
2004 French Open Gaston Gaudio & Guillermo Coria
2005 Australian Open Marat Safin & Lleyton Hewitt
2014 US Open Marin Cilic & Kei Nishikori
2016 Wimbledon Andy Murray & Milos Raonic

(Winner in bold)

But is this astonishing trend the first ever one in the Open era? The answer is yes and no.

Yes, this is happening in Men’s tennis for the first ever time. No, it happened already in Women’s tennis.

Which leads us to…

The Golden period of Women’s tennis

Photo Credits: The Tennis Freaks

1980s was arguably the most exciting era in Women’s tennis which saw Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf sharing 32 out of the 40 singles titles. Similar to the combined 51 titles among Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, the three great ladies had a grand 58 singles titles among them.

Number of unique Grand slam winners in open era – Women

Time Period Grand slam winners
1970-79 13
1980-89 7
1990-99 12
2000-09 12
2010- 17


Similar to the 2010s in Men’s tennis, Ladies tennis in the 80s saw very few winners and the number of new winners in the 80s was just three, which is same as the new winners in Men’s tennis this decade.

Number of unique Grand slam winners in open era – Women

Time Period Grand slam winners
1970-79 9
1980-89 3
1990-99 9
2000-09 9
2010- 14


There is a striking resemblance between the Men’s tennis in 2010s and Women’s tennis of the 1980s. Once these three men call it quits, we can probably see the likes of Milos Raonic, Dominic Thiem and many others winning grand slams.

Rafael Nadal’s 11 French Open titles by beating 7 different opponents – out of which three never won any grand slams – is a clear indication of how the three giants acted as an insurmountable barrier in the careers of many players.

The one major difference between the women greats of the 80s and the men in 2010s, however, is the ability to win titles across all the three categories.

The Big Three women fared better than their male counterparts by winning at least two titles in all the four majors.


Male and Female greats in Open era

Player Aus Open French Open Wimbledon US Open Total
Roger Federer 6 1 8 5 20
Rafael Nadal 1 11 2 3 17
Novak Djokovic 6 1 4 3 14
Pete Sampras 2 0 7 5 14
Serena Williams 7 3 7 6 23
Steffi Graf 4 6 7 5 22
Chris Evert 2 7 3 6 18
Martina Navratilova 3 2 9 4 18


And of course, it would be remiss not to mention the single most dominant force we’ve perhaps seen in all of tennis – both in the men’s and women’s game – Serena Williams.

Unlike the scenario in Women’s tennis in the 80s and the current landscape of Men’s tennis, Serena Williams doesn’t share the space with 2 other contemporaries.

In a way, that is both easier and harder for someone to push her off the perch and begin a new era for women’s tennis.


Leave a Comment