The “Big Three’s” stranglehold on world tennis is not quite as tight as it once was, according to a longtime ATP tour pro.
French player and former world number six Gilles Simon, said the chasing pack is catching up the sport’s top stars ahead of this summer’s Grand Slams at the French Open and Wimbledon.
Speaking to L’Equipe in France, Simon looked back at the final of the Italian Open in Rome, where Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic were made to battle to reach the tournament finale before Nadal eventually claimed the title.
“The margin is shrinking,” said the former Australian Open and Wimbledon quarter-finalist.
“Their level of play has dropped a little with the constraints of age, but they still reach the final.”
Simon also suggested that the overall level of play from the pair perhaps isn’t quite as high as it was a few years ago.
“I found Nadal and Djokovic less efficient than a few years ago,” he continued.
“They have less margin (for error), they are more and more hooked by increasingly different players.
“They have fewer and fewer quiet matches. But … it holds!
“This is where you see they are strong.”
Nadal and Djokovic are scheduled to be in the same half of the draw at Roland Garros, with the French Open seeing the pair at 1 and 3, respectively, with Russian player Daniil Medvedev splitting the two.
It has led to suggestions that the seeding committee at the French Open should have kept the two big stars apart to set up a potential blockbuster final between Nadal and Djokovic.
But Simon disagreed with that sentiment.
“We cannot do the paintings we want to do,” he explained.
“The classification exists, the points have not been stolen.
“I like this notion of classification. And Daniil deserves to be number two.
“Otherwise, we just have to take a Twitter ranking or a Facebook ranking.”
Simon also weighed in on Roger Federer’s battle for fitness ahead of the French Open.
Federer crashed out of the Geneva Open at the first attempt against unheralded Spanish player Pablo Andujar, depriving him of valuable competitive match time ahead of Roland Garros.
It led Federer to cast doubt on his participation in France, and Simon said that the Swiss star was only viewing the French Open as a means to an end as he looks to rebuild his fitness for Wimbledon later this summer.
“Clay is no longer really his goal,” explained the current world number 68.
“I don’t think Roland Garros is the Grand Slam tournament he most wants to win right now.
“He plays on clay to hope to win matches, polish his physique and bring it all to the grass. There it will be more painful.
“The Grand Slam he has in mind is Wimbledon.”