Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner - Australian Open 2024

Roland Garros ATP preview: Is there where the curtain falls on the ‘big three’ era?

If the women’s draw at Roland Garros feels under threat of becoming a precession ahead of the usual favourite, Iga Swiatek, extending her dominance, the men’s side feels refreshingly open this year. That is obviously a complete about turn from what we have come to expect at the French Open for the last two decades.

Rafael Nadal, all being well (and it’s fair to say that all has not been well during his comeback season so far) will be back on the Parisian clay for perhaps the penultimate time. It’s clear that his plan has been to play the French Open and return to Roland Garros for the Olympics later this year. Whether or not his body will comply is another question entirely.

We are also in the deeply unfamiliar position of Novak Djokovic just starting to look a little vulnerable too. Well, by Novak Djokovic standards anyway. As of the end of Indian Wells, Djokovic is still awaiting his first title of the season after he suffered an almost unprecedented loss to world number 123 and lucky loser Luca Nardi in California. The Italian is the lowest ranked player to ever beat Djokovic, who almost immediately withdrew from the Miami Open afterwards.

It means Djokovic went into clay season with just three tournaments under his belt for the year and, in truth, barely a notable performance to his name. That’s unusual, as has been the level of self-criticism from the 24-time major winner. “I was, in a way, shocked with my level, in a bad way,” he said after losing the Australian Open final to Jannik Sinner. “There was not much I was doing right in the first two sets. I guess this is one of the worst Grand Slam matches I’ve ever played.” It does hint at something of a shift in his headspace of late, and only time will tell how temporary that is.

No one will be writing off Djokovic, of course, but he will be 37 years old by the time the 2024 Roland Garros title is handed out and it won’t have escaped him that Father Time has dealt him into a game that he ultimately cannot win. Djokovic, along with Nadal and Federer, were able to bat away the challenges of up-and-coming generations before, but Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz are very different animals.

Both have now beaten Djokovic in Grand Slam finals – Sinner in Australia this year and Alcaraz at Wimbledon last season – and both look capable of defeating him consistently. Crucially, both are only going to get better too, while Djokovic knows his level can only diminish from here. He is still easily good enough to hold them off, but it’s a battle he knows he can never win, and is that going to provide the kind of motivation he needs, especially given how little left there is for him to prove?

I hope so, because men’s tennis needs it. More importantly, Sinner and Alcaraz need it. No one doubts their quality, and the fact both have beaten Djokovic once in major finals certainly carries weight, but champions who take it from the greats are always more legitimised than those who take a vacated spot at the top.

You could even go so far as saying that if they can wrestle the narrative from their predecessors at the French Open, it will surely bring down the final curtain on the ‘big three’ era and herald a genuine new dawn for men’s tennis – one many might say is now very much overdue.

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Michael Graham, Editor, has been a professional sports journalist for his whole career and is especially passionate about tennis. He's been the Editor of for over 5 years and loves watching live tennis by visiting as many tournaments as possible. Michael specialises in writing in-depth features about the ATP & WTA tours.