“We’re Still Here”: Novak Djokovic Mocked Next Gen Players After Italian Open Loss to Rafael Nadal

Published 05/16/2021, 5:29 PM EDT
Tennis – ATP Masters 1000 – Italian Open – Foro Italico, Rome, Italy – May 16, 2021 Serbia’s Novak Djokovic in action during his final match against Spain’s Rafael Nadal REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane


World number one and eighteen-time grand slam champion Novak Djokovic, who lost in the Italian Open finals against Rafael Nadal, gained a lot of confidence heading into the French Open later this month.

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The Serb’s decision to skip two tournaments on the red dirt to play in his home event was initially criticized as fans felt it would affect his chances in Paris.

But, the 2016 French Open champion proved everyone wrong once again as he played brilliant tennis throughout the week and just fell short of Rafael Nadal in the final.

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Tennis – ATP Masters 1000 – Italian Open – Foro Italico, Rome, Italy – May 16, 2021 Serbia’s Novak Djokovic in action during his final match against Spain’s Rafael Nadal REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
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After the final, the Serb was all praise for his greatest rival and mentioned that this match was the ultimate preparation for Roland Garros.

I was happy to face him because it’s the ultimate challenge on clay, even more so in the final. There is nothing better before Roland Garros”, Djokovic said.

The world number one also talked about his performance in the final as he appeared to be largely satisfied with his effort against the Spaniard.

I think I played well today (Sunday). Of course, I’m disappointed to have lost, but I’m happy with my level. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like this on clay. He played the important points better, but we were very close”, added Djokovic.

But, the big revelation from Djokovic came after he was asked about next-gen players. Amongst the Big-3, it was the Serb who downplayed the youngsters multiple times in the past. In the runner-up speech today, Djokovic said, “We are reinventing the next gen, Rafa, myself, and Roger. We are the next gen”. 

Novak Djokovic takes a dig at Next Gen players after Italian Open defeat

When Djokovic was asked about next-gen players in the post-match press conference, the Serb felt that the youngsters are yet to challenge the Big-3 in crucial tournaments.

I’ve said it a thousand times, there’s this Next Gen that’s growing, but we’re still here and we’re winning the big tournaments. You can write all the stories you want, but we’re still here”, explained the world number one.

Even though Djokovic’s words sound a bit harsh towards young players, it’s true that the next-gen players are yet to become more consistent at the top. Although Zverev and Tsitsipas did win a couple of tournaments on the red dirt this season, they couldn’t continue the winning momentum. This is a significant aspect that separates Big-3 from the rest.

Djokovic plans to play the clay-court event in Belgrade

The statement from Djokovic makes it evident that the Big-3 are not going to fade away anytime soon on the ATP tour. For the next gen to win grand slams, they need to overcome the mental block of facing their idols (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic) in the finals.

The longer young players take to dethrone the Big-3 at majors, the lesser their chances of winning multiple grand slams.

Also, the Serb mentioned his program before Roland Garros and expressed his intention to play in the second clay-court event at Belgrade.

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Tennis – ATP Masters 1000 – Italian Open – Foro Italico, Rome, Italy – May 15, 2021 Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning his quarter final match against Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

“I’m going to take a week off because I’ve spent enough time racket in hand on a court. I’m going to work on recovery. I will also play in Belgrade and I hope to be ready for Paris”,  Djokovic concluded.

Surely, the Italian Open was a booster for Djokovic’s chances of winning his second French Open crown. With Dominic Thiem struggling to find form, the Serb will be the best contender in Paris, after Nadal.

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Sagar Ashtakoula

207 articles

Sagar Ashtakoula is a tennis writer at EssentiallySports. He has been following the sport since 2007. Having developed an interest in creating content, he mixed his passion for writing with his love for tennis for 2 years at SportsKeeda before joining the tennis team at EssentiallySports.

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