World number one Novak Djokovic took a look at all the talk about the younger generation of tennis players, saying he and his rival Rafael Nadal are the “next generation”.
The pair faced each other for the 57th time in Sunday’s Italian Open final, with Nadal winning a 10th trophy on Roman clay at the expense of the defending champion.
“The young people of the next generation? Me, Rafa (Nadal) and Roger (Federer) are reinventing the next generation. We are the next generation, ”replied Djokovic after accepting the finalists’ trophy.
Second seed Nadal won 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 in 2h 49m to tie Djokovic’s record of 36 Masters 1000 titles and set a key scorer two weeks away from defending his crown of Roland Garros.
Nadal, 34, and Djokovic, 33, ousted the last two winners of the ‘Next Gen’ trophy in Rome this week – Italy’s Jannik Sinner, 19, and Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas, 22 respectively.
Spaniard Nadal, who shares the 20 majors record with Federer, also saved two match points to defeat 22-year-old Canadian Denis Shapovalov and took revenge on his Madrid Masters killer Alexander Zverev, 24 years.
“Rafa is one of the biggest rivals I’ve had in my career, every time it’s a fight, today almost three hours,” said Djokovic, 18-time Grand Slam title winner .
“I mean, I’ve said it a thousand times. I don’t know how many times people want me to say this again, ”added the Serbian in the post-match press conference.
“Of course, the Next Gen is here, coming, whatever. But here we are still winning the biggest tournaments and slams.
“I don’t know what to tell you other than that. I’m not focused on the Next Gen even though I know people, you know, it makes a story.
“People like to talk about it. Very good. The guys are there. They are already establishing themselves in the top 5, the top 10 in the world. Nothing new. But we are still there. “
Djokovic leads Nadal in his overall head-to-head record 29-28, but hasn’t beaten the Spaniard on clay since the quarter-finals of the 2016 Italian Open.
© 2021 AFP