Sooner than the Australian Open ultimate, Novak Djokovic vowed that if the more youthful era of tennis stars sought after to start out retaining Grand Slam trophies, they higher be ready for him to combat again.
“I’m now not going to face right here and hand it over to them,” Djokovic mentioned in an interview with Eurosport. “I’m going to cause them to paintings their ass off for it.”
True to his phrase on almost each and every level of the Australian Open ultimate in opposition to Daniil Medvedev, Djokovic despatched the message loud and transparent: A generational shift in tennis isn’t taking place. Now not but. Now not now.
Djokovic’s 18th Grand Slam name, pulling him inside of two of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the best-ever lead in males’s tennis, used to be as emphatic a message as he may ship to top-10 gamers like Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev and Andrey Rublev who’re a decade more youthful. Higher up your sport, boys.
For the following 12 months, how briefly Djokovic can chase Federer and Nadal goes to be the dominant storyline in males’s tennis. Nadal might be liked to get No. 21 at Roland Garros this spring, and Federer is poised to go back to the excursion in a couple of weeks after convalescing from a knee a knee harm. However Djokovic is a 12 months more youthful than Nadal and 6 more youthful than Federer. Given first rate well being, time has at all times been on his aspect.
The corresponding storyline to that three-way combat has been whether or not any of the emerging stars could be as much as the problem of profitable a Slam whilst the Large 3 are nonetheless aggressive.
Thus far, the returns aren’t promising.
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Serbia’s Novak Djokovic holds the Norman Brookes Problem Cup after defeating Russia’s Daniil Medvedev within the Australian Open. (Photograph: Andy Brownbill, AP)
The one participant in his 20s to win a Grand Slam is Dominic Thiem eventually 12 months’s U.S. Open, a match from which Djokovic used to be disqualified within the fourth spherical for slamming a ball in anger that ended up hitting a strains particular person without delay within the throat.
We will’t know needless to say, nevertheless it’s honest to mention that with out that unfortunate incident — six inches both approach and Djokovic wouldn’t had been disqualified — he’d had been a large favourite to win that match, too. The nervy five-set ultimate between Thiem and Zverev used to be now not precisely an endorsement of post-Large 3 generation tennis.
There were some indicators alongside the way in which that the distance is getting nearer. Tsitsipas has made two consecutive Slam semifinals, has crushed each Federer and Nadal in Australia, and driven Djokovic to 5 units eventually 12 months’s French.
Medvedev’s development has been stable. He’s a two-time Grand Slam finalist who has gained 3 Masters 1000-level titles and final 12 months’s ATP Finals and has crushed Djokovic and Nadal in best-of-three set fits.
Zverev has transform extra constant making the second one week of majors and nonetheless has a large number of upside to his sport. The following taste of the month is 19-year previous Jannik Sinner, an Italian who’s heading in the right direction to crack the highest 30 quickly and already has two minor ATP titles below his belt.
However in relation to Grand Slam finals, it’s only a other global.
Tennis is a extremely bodily recreation, however the distinction between the Large 3 and the younger weapons is their skill to make it a psychological one within the best-of-five fits with the whole lot at the line.
When Djokovic mentioned that he wasn’t going to only roll out the pink carpet for those guys to win Grand Slams, he confirmed precisely what he intended in opposition to Medvedev. Djokovic didn’t essentially play lights-out tennis in his 7-Five, 6-2, 6-2 win as a result of he didn’t need to.
He probed and he prodded relatively than resorting to all-out aggression. He hit some balls down the center of the court docket, simply to peer how Medvedev would react. He shifted techniques every now and then, throwing in some drop photographs. Djokovic messed together with his opponent’s thoughts and his frame, checking out for which could be extra inclined.
He were given the solution beautiful briefly. For 10 video games, Medvedev used to be prepared to move blow for blow. However as soon as the strain began to get to him, he utterly unraveled and began lacking photographs that for the former six fits had appeared regimen.
That’s what enjoying Djokovic can do to you. And that’s nonetheless the largest hurdle the following era can’t somewhat appear to go.
Frankly, Djokovic will have to had been out of this match greater than every week in the past. Taylor Fritz, a 23-year previous American, had a critically hobbled Djokovic at the ropes within the 3rd spherical however misplaced his nerve within the 5th set and couldn’t end the activity.
However forcing the likes of Medvedev and Tsitsipas to come back take it from Djokovic without delay? That’s the way it will have to be.
As bored as some lovers would possibly get with the similar guys retaining the trophies 12 months after 12 months, that is in all probability essentially the most fascinating time in the entire Large 3 generation. As a result of despite the fact that they’re nonetheless profitable all of the trophies, it’s steadily getting harder for them to triumph over their bodily problems and the inevitable drive of time is making them dig deeper.
Possibly at some point quickly, a large, making improvements to ability like Medvedev might be ready to move blow-for-blow with Djokovic in a Grand Slam ultimate. But when that day comes, we all know something needless to say. Djokovic goes to make him earn it.