YES – JAMES PASCOE: “It is true that the 2014 season bears the hallmarks of what could turn out to be the end of an era in men’s tennis. But that is not to say it is the end of sport’s golden age – just merely the beginning of a glittering new chapter. The real issue is not the decline of the big four but the coming of age of their challengers. Stan Wawrinka has finally made the step up after years in the shadow of compatriot Federer. Del Potro has shown signs of an overdue return to the remarkable form which saw him lift the 2009 US Open. Wawrinka’s win will inspire the likes of Berdych, Gasquet and Tsonga to strive for what previously seemed impossible. Rising stars like Dimitrov, Raonic and Nishikori aren’t too far over the horizon too. Of course, as a sporting phenomenon, the cycle of the big four will not formally be broken until one of them, most likely Federer, retires from the game.
Yet, 2014 could see the beginning of the end of their stranglehold on the major titles. Despite talks of an apparent Federer rejuvenation, he has yet to convince his doubters that he can climb the rankings again, let alone seal another slam. Meanwhile, Djokovic looked out of sorts at times in his defeat to Wawrinka in Melbourne last month. Does the desire still remain? And, of course, SW19 hero Andy Murray has yet to return to form following surgery. Falling out of the top four rankings has shown just how hard his task to add to his two majors will be this year. Exciting times lie ahead for tennis. Tennis’s fab four aren’t finished yet, but the warning shots have been fired.“
NO – ISAAC LISTER: “No, it is not the end of the big four. You can rule out one, the imperious Serb Novak Djokovic straight away. Nole reached 100 weeks as number one in the world in 2013, and went on to storm into the quarters dropping a set before ultimately losing to Stanislas Wawrinka. This strong, if ultimately disappointing start to the calendar year shows how dominant Djokovic continues to be on the world stage. While it is true that Rafa Nadal’s position in the big four is in jeopardy, this is only because he is perpetually plagued by injury. His ability, when fit, is unquestionable- so to pontificate that his time at the top is over based purely on injury speculation is first-rate idiocy. The same can be said of Roger Federer – though his Achilles heel is not one of injury but of age, he has had to wrap himself in cotton wool and guard against playing too many matches.
At 100% though, Federer will still overwhelm any opponent not bringing his A-game,and yet again, to speculate on his decline is just that, to speculate. His Grand Slam appearances these days have a swansong element to them, but he still oozes class. Andy Murray’s back problems are an enigma of their own. A glorious Wimbledon-winning 2013 was at last ‘his time’. As he eases back to full match fitness, there is no doubt in his ability to win more Slams and dominate the world stage. But can he, like Nadal, fight off injury and remain at the pinnacle of world tennis for much longer? With the rise of the likes of Grigor Dimitrov, it remains to be seen, but it ain’t over yet.“