But at the halfway point of the US Open the supreme trio continue to be as stubbornly dominant as ever, whatever the upcoming generation throw at them.
On Sunday night Nadal became the first of them through to the last eight, eventually outclassing a belligerent Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-3 6-3 6-7 6-4 to stay on course for a successful title defence.
Rafael Nadal is back in the US Open quarter-finals after beating Nikoloz Basilashvili
Nadal eventually outclassing a belligerent Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-3 6-3 6-7 6-4 in New York
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The Georgian fought impressively, although he is not among the bracket of rising players who might have been expected by now to make more of an impact on the established order at the Grand Slams.
Most of them have already perished, further backing the recurring thought of this season: the elite are probably even better than we thought, while the younger generation are not quite as good as had been predicted.
There was almost a sense of relief when Austria's Dominic Thiem, who turns 25 on Monday, on Sunday night slightly bucked the trend by beating more experienced Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson 7-5 6-2 7-6.
For some of those below him in seniority, and who are regarded as having serious potential, it was a frustrating Labor Day weekend.
The Spaniard appears on course for a successful title defence at Flushing Meadows
Dominic Thiem beat Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson in the US Open third round
While Australia's highly-rated Alex de Minaur lost at 2.20am Sunday morning after leading Marin Cilic two sets to love, the more perplexing defeat was that of world No 4 Alex Zverev not long before.
Zverev, 21, has struggled so much at the Grand Slams compared to regular tour events that he has taken a leaf out of the Andy Murray playbook and hired Ivan Lendl to help make the breakthrough.
Even the presence of old stoneface in his box could not stop him going down in four sets to 35 year-old compatriot Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Zverev has already won nine singles titles on the main ATP Tour but, contrastingly, this year's French Open remains the only time he has made the last eight in 14 Grand Slam appearances.
Alexander Zverev was a shock exit in the third round, losing to Philipp Kohlschreiber
The young German was left to emphasise that he did not expect Lendl – who assisted Murray to a first Major within nine months of joining his team – to pay an immediate dividend.
'You can't expect to kind of immediately see the results. I think the results will come hopefully next year,' said Zverev.
'Ivan's very straightforward. He said that it's a process of getting there. He told me that before the tournament started that hopefully I'll do very well at the US Open, but we're more looking towards being at latter stages, competing for Slams next year.'
This year's French Open remains the only time Zverev made the last eight in 14 Slam outings
Nadal dispensed with the strapping on his knee for Sunday night's match, and while not at his best he found a way to win, as he so often does.
He was a break up in the third set and should have finished his opponent off sooner, thus conserving energy for what ought to be a stern test provided by Thiem.
While hardly qualifying as a youngster these days, the Austrian may emerge as the next first time winner of a Grand Slam among the men.
It is a testament to the enduring power of the big three – plus Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka – that there has not been a new champion at the Majors since Cilic here four years ago.
Nadal has spent more than eleven hours on court getting this far and will be worked hard by Thiem, who has mimicked his habit of standing way behind the baseline to receive serve to useful effect.
Federer and the rejuvenated Djokovic are back in fourth round action on Monday, both of them taking on honest journeymen in Australia's John Millman and Portugal's Joao Sousa respectively.
There is every reason to believe that they will meet on Wednesday in a crunch last eight match that would be likely to determine who makes the final.
This news has been published by title Roger Federer Stopped In Wimbledon Quarterfinals; Rafael Nadal Slips Through
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