DOHA – The dominating 'big four' era of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal and Andy Murray could be coming to an end, former Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych said Sunday.
Speaking ahead of his appearance in the year-opening tournament, the Qatar Open which starts on New Year's Day, the world number 19 said men's tennis was set for a "very interesting year".
Since 2010 28 of 32 Grand Slam titles were won by the quartet.
Asked if the 'big four era was over, the Czech Republic star responded: " It's hard to say right now. But yes, I think it's very possible.
"I'm not saying that it's over, but I think it's the nature of the process of the time and of the sport."
He added that he expected other players emerging through the year to "be definitely competitive to get a chance to win a Slam".
The 32-year-old was speaking after the late withdrawal from the tournament of defending champion Djokovic, who has an elbow injury.
Combined with the continued injury concerns of Nadal, still recuperating from a knee problem, Murray recovering from a hip issue, as well as Federer turning 37 in 2018, the door seems open for new stars to stake their claim next year.
And Berdych, 32, once a world number four, says he still harbours hope of winning a Grand Slam.
"I think that's the beauty of our sport that no matter where you are, you still have a big chance.
It's about that particular day, and from that one day you can create a great week.
"From one great week, you can make it two and that's what you are looking for.
"To be honest, that's the only reason why I'm still around."
A semi-finalist in the past two years in Doha and seeded three this time round, he begins his quest for the title against Germany's Jan-Lennard Struff.
Djokovic has been replaced as number one seed by Austria's Dominic Thiem, who begins against Evgeny Donskoy of Russia.