World No. 1 Novak Djokovic recently won the Italian Open 2020. This was his fifth title in Rome. So far, the Serbian has been unbeaten in 2020 and will be looking to end the year on a high by winning the French Open 2020.
At the post-match press conference, the 17-time Grand Slam winner was asked about his future and the future of the sport. One of the questions touched upon whether the Italian Open 2020 winner believed that the generation of tennis players in their early thirties including players like Kevin Anderson, John Isner, and Grigor Dimitrov was actually a lost generation.
“It’s really hard for me to say that it’s a lost generation. I respect the guys like Dimitrov, Isner, and Anderson. But I get your point. There is always discussion about the ‘Big Three’, taking away 90% of the Grand Slams in the last 10-15 years,” began the Serbian legend.
Djokovic defeated a new-gen player Diego Schwartzman in the finals of the Italian Open 2020. Schwartzman lost in straight sets and this loss must have stung even more since he earlier thrashed World No. 2, Rafael Nadal, on clay.
There have always been deliberations about why the other players in their thirties failed to make a name like that of the ‘Big Three’. The question about these players seems to have put Djokovic on the spot.
“You have guys like Wawrinka who have won 3 Grand Slams. He deserves to be talked about more. But he doesn’t,” Djokovic said at the press conference. “It’s a reaction from the public and the media as well. To divert the attention on the younger guys. It’s not only a case in tennis. But, It’s happening in every sport. You want to see young guys coming up and breaking records. And it’s fantastic that we have many young and fantastic players in tennis.”
While he admits that some of the players in their early thirties can be counted as successful, Djokovic also thinks that they haven’t fully lived up to their potential. He said, “Again, I agree with your point. Dimitrov – I mean you can’t say that he has not been successful because he has always been there in the top 10 rankings. But his potential is still to be a little bit higher. To go ahead in Slams.”
Djokovic went on to highlight the amount of commitment it took to be one of the top players and how the game has changed in subtle ways. “But, the game has changed as well. You now have tall guys like Zverev, Medvedev serving big. You know, being a player in the Top 5 in the world requires a lot of consistency, requires determination and sacrifice. It’s not just enough to play one month a year, two months a year well. You need to play the whole year well in order to be one of the best players in the world,” said the 17-time Grand Slam champion.
Djokovic spoke about certain new-gen players and how tennis might be in good hands with them. He said, “But, you know some guys are showing some great perspective and some great potential. I mean, now you have a new Grand Slam champion, Dominic Thiem, which is fantastic to see. Also, he deserves it absolutely. I want to believe tennis is in good hands. I see some good and interesting personalities. You know, guys like Shapovalov. I believe, tennis needs to help these guys express a little bit more.”
It is clear that when the ‘Big Three’ will say goodbye to the sport, a void will be generated. Fans will expect the next-gen players to not just fill the void but also carry on the legacy of the ‘Big Three’.