NEW YORK -- The "Big Four" of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have dominated men's tennis in recent years.
The trio of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic has won 29 of the last 30 Majors -- with Murray capturing gold at the London Olympics earlier this month.
That group has been reduced to a "Big Three" for this year's U.S. Open with Nadal's withdrawal due to tendonitis in his knee.
Still, is there any reason to believe one of the "Big Three" won't win the men's singles championship on Sept. 9 inside Arthur Ashe Stadium?
Frankly, no, there isn't.
"We have somewhat of a golden era right now," Federer, the No. 1 seed and five-time U.S. Open champion said Saturday in advance of Monday's official start to the tournament.
"I feel that truly. It's nice to see Andy making his move at the Olympics, nice to see Novak having an absolutely ridiculous year last year, and then Rafa and myself still being around.
"It's definitely good times."
Juan Martin del Potro, the No. 7 seed here, was the last man not named Federer, Nadal or Djokovic to win a Grand Slam singles titles -- and that came here in Flushing Meadows in 2009.
Before that, you have to go back to Marat Safin's win in the 2005 Australian Open to find another winner outside of the top tier.
The club has gotten so exclusive that some believe today's "Big Four" may be the most dominant group ever to lord over men's tennis.
Federer, winner of a men's record 17 Majors, including the record-tying seventh Wimbledon championship he won in July over Murray, isn't so sure.
"I'd say no, but I don't know," he said. "Just because you look back maybe 15 years, then you have [Pete] Sampras, [Stefan] Edberg, [Boris] Becker, and [Andre] Agassi, I don't know who else. Those guys weren't good or what? Do you know what I mean?
"You look back, further back, 20 years, and you have the Connors and the Lendls [and the McEnroes]. Those weren't good either? I mean, I don't know. So for me I think that's respectful."
In this golden era of men's tennis, history always seems to be on the line at the last Grand Slam of the year.
During the era in which he dominated the men's game, Federer won five straight titles from 2004-8 before relinquishing the 2009 title to del Potro, who became the first man to beat Nadal and Federer en route to a Major.
In 2010, Nadal completed the career Grand Slam by winning his first and only U.S. Open title.
A year ago, Djokovic won the second of three straight Majors by fending off double-match point against Federer in the semifinals before defeating Nadal in the final.
"It brings me the nicest memories, that's for sure," Djokovic said of the crosscourt forehand winner he ripped on the first match point against Federer in last year's semis. "That point, you know, saved me from losing the semifinals and giving me the opportunity to win the title. I have done it."
Once again this year, a slew of storylines dominate the men's game.
Can Federer consolidate the hold he recently re-gained on No. 1 in the world after winning Wimbledon?
Can Djokovic defend his title and win his fourth Major of the last six?
Can Murray, who crushed Federer in the Olympic gold medal match, use that momentum to win his first Grand Slam singles title?
"There has been a number of weeks since Wimbledon and a number of weeks since the Olympics as well, so I don't know -- I mean, the one thing it has given me is a bit more confidence probably," said Murray, who is seeded No. 3 here and could meet Federer in the semifinals.
"But I needed to make sure that afterwards, you know, I worked hard. That's the most important thing. Whether you're confident or not confident, providing you work hard and you do all the right things in training, then you'll get a good result."
The only thing that would make this year's event more compelling on the men's side would be if Nadal were healthy enough to play, rounding out the "Big Four" for the last Slam of the year.
"It is strange because he hasn't missed a slam for a long time," Djokovic said. "I think neither of us top four have really missed a slam for a long time, which can only work in favor of the sport.
"I think that's why it's one of the reasons why we are experiencing a great era of men's tennis, because all the top players are really committed in their performing and all the top events and, you know, reaching the final stages of those events."
And until proven otherwise, expect the U.S. Open's "Big Three" to dominate once again.