I’m calling it now: our truly, madly, deeply exhausting search for a Big Three successor is over.

With his maiden Grand Slam victory at the US Open—and subsequent soccer video game-inspired celebration—Daniil Medvedev ascended above the cadre of Next Gen pretenders, and combined the best of his lofty predecessors, to prove himself a worthy heir to no one man, but instead all 3™.

Tracing the Russian’s athletic lineage, he shares the most DNA with Novak Djokovic, making the pair’s hard-court rivalry—one that stretched throughout the season, from an Australian Open defeat to history-halting vengeance in New York—all the more poetic. Djokovic and Medvedev play oppositional tennis, bending both body and ball in ways that defy expectation and imagination.

The two differ most in their delivery: Djokovic comes with all the refinement of a 20-time major champion, where Medvedev stretches in ways that conjure the relentlessness of a Rafael Nadal—or even that of famous cartoon “octopus” Squidward Tentacles, for friends like countryman Andrey Rublev.

“The first coach I had, one woman in Russia, she taught everybody who was in her group, and it was like a group of 10 kids,” Medvedev recalled in 2019 of Ekaterina Kryuchkova, the woman behind the initial development fellow former No. 2 Vera Zvonareva. “She taught us to fight till the last ball, and that's what I did throughout all my life on the tennis court.”


Medvedev's FIFA-inspired reaction to winning the US Open was reminiscent of how he approaches the court at his very best: like a video game.

Medvedev's FIFA-inspired reaction to winning the US Open was reminiscent of how he approaches the court at his very best: like a video game.  

Whereas Roger Federer evolved away from his early days as an enfant terrible, Medvedev is yet to entirely excise his less-than-better angels. Booed after a victory in Flushing Meadows in 2019, he revived an old standard a mere three weeks ago, when he tauntingly told an upset Spanish crowd just how much enjoyed devouring their Davis Cup heroes.

“When you play a tennis match, you are alone there,” he explained. “There are 20,000 people, sometimes for you, sometimes against you, sometimes 50/50. If I do something to provoke them, it's actually not to make them mad or sad or against me. It's something that I feel in this moment. We see it in any sport.”

In press conferences, Medvedev is more similar to the Swiss, revealing a perspective behind the pugnaciousness and a willingness to take accountability for his actions—while also acknowledging the pitfalls of playing in the shadow of living legends.

“I think the tough part for the young generation, because we had Roger and Rafa—I go with my words—they are probably I want to say one of the fairest sportsmen in all the history of the sport, and they were both playing together, and they both won amazing titles. Now when somebody in tennis is not like this, people tend to not like them and say, ‘How come you're not like Roger and Rafa?’ Guess what, everybody is different.”

It that kind of radical honesty that has quickly endeared himself to fans despite the histrionics, a balance that Djokovic himself, for all his off-court eloquence, has often struggled to strike. On the precipice of passing rivals against whom he is persistently compared, Djokovic remains the present, but Medvedev is a nearer future than the Serb would like.


WATCH: Daniil Medvedev is our No. 2 ATP Player of the Year


“There are no holes in his game right now,” Djokovic declared in Paris. “It's just he always makes you play. He has a way to come back to the point from really difficult positions. For someone of his height, the movement and the defense are fantastic, and he has also improved in his aggressive style.

“He's one of the guys that you see, where you see the commitment and devotion to every day training and trying to perfect his game. He's a very smart guy also and nice guy, and tries to maximize his potential.”

And isn’t that the best part of watching a major champion in his mid-20s? Even after a season highlighted by seven finals, four titles—including a Masters 1000 win in Canada—and a Davis Cup victory for the Russian team, one can hardly say Medvedev has come close to reaching his potential. Having built an empire almost entirely of concrete, the Russian will surely aim to expand his dominance onto the specialty surfaces necessary to usurping Djokovic atop the ATP rankings.

“Becoming the No. 1 in the world is still the goal,” Medvedev said this fall, but added, “My biggest goal is to work and be the best version of myself in every tournament, whether a Slam or a 250 event.”

After numerous false starts, the Next Gen has officially arrived. At the undeniable forefront is Medvedev, blending the Big Three with a modern—even “legendary”—twist.