Roger Federer revealed the skills needed to eliminate himself, Nadal, and Djokovic from a Grand Slam tournament — but even he knows it's a difficult task

Alan Dawson
Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images for The Laver Cup


  • Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, and Novak Djokovic — the "big three" of men's tennis — have dominated Grand Slam tournaments in recent years.
  • Questions have been raised over how an emerging athlete can be expected to defeat them all en-route to success in a major.
  • Federer has the answer — but he warned it is wrought with difficulties.

Have you ever wondered how an opponent could possibly defeat Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, and Novak Djokovic in Grand Slam tournament tennis?

Federer himself may have finally provided an answer — but it's wrought with difficulties.

Speaking in Chicago where he had been competing in the Laver Cup, Federer said: "We play very different," according to Metro.

That may be an understatement. As a Business Insider report recently showed, Djokovic's victory at the 2018 US Open meant the "big three" of men's tennis had won the last eight Grand Slams and 51 of 62 over the last 15 years.

That leaves little chance for other athletes to succeed in the big competitions, despite Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, and Marin Čilić sneaking sporadic Slams during that time.

So, how can a new major champion emerge from the pack?

"For anybody to come through all three guys in one tournament and end up winning the tournament, I don’t know if it’s ever happened," Federer said. "And obviously the draw also maybe doesn’t allow it to happen, but it’s just very hard, you know."

The key is a combination of physical, mental, and technical attributes, according to Federer.

"You have to have so many different qualities in your game," he said. "You need to be able to serve well, return well. You have to have a transition game. You need to be able to finish at the net. You need to be physically strong, mentally strong."

But even if a tennis player possessed all of those attributes, it would not guarantee success.

"I think our three playing styles challenge all those things," Federer said. "And that may be over a weekend, over a week, whatever it may be. It’s just very hard, you know, I think for a lot of guys to break through and we have made it difficult."

Alexander Zverev

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images for The Laver Cup

He went on: "Then you add someone like Stan in the mix who comes in with the power or a [Dominic] Thiem or a Sascha [Zverev] or a Murray obviously who has unbelievable retrieving potential and is also a great champion, and Čilić who can serve unbelievable.

"And then you realise actually maybe how difficult it is to break through, so you need to have the full package or you will just not make it."

He added: "I know how hard it is to win slams. Everybody knows it. You have to stay super, super focused for a long period of time and, you know, mentally not think too far ahead. You have to go point-by-point mentality basically, which is crazy, but that’s how you are successful on the tennis tour."

Federer, who helped Europe win the Laver Cup this month, will compete next at the Shanghai Masters in China in October.

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