Novak Djokovic believes the “face of tennis is changing” as the younger generation of players continue to step up their game in hopes of staking a claim on the major titles in tennis.
Djokovic, who returned to the top spot in the world rankings, thanks to a tremendous second half of the 2018 season, lost to just three players from the start of Wimbledon onwards last year – Stefanos Tsitsipas in Toronto, Karen Khachanov in Paris-Bercy and Alexander Zverev in the ATP Finals in London. All three are aged 22 and under.
The 31-year-old Serb looks to be back to his devastating self but remains acutely aware of the fact that the young guns are closing in, having been subjected to their threat and fallen short on those three occasions last season.
“Good,” Djokovic says with a smile when told the stat and age of the opponents he lost to in 2018.
Asked if he thinks any of those youngsters can rise to the occasion and win a Slam in 2019, Djokovic said: “There’s always a possibility and rightfully we’re kind of expecting them to be Grand Slam winners soon. Number one is Zverev obviously, who has been now top-three in the world for a couple of years in a row, winning London, winning I think three Masters 1000 events.
“He’s definitely the leader of the up-and-coming stars and the next generation. You have guys like Tsitsipas, (Dominic) Thiem, Khachanov, (Borna) Coric, these guys are showing that they’re able to challenge the top players for the top titles of our sport so for sure I’m expecting them to do well this season.
“How well? We’ll see.”
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 10, 2019
Last season, Coric defeated Federer in the final in Halle, the likes of Chung Hyeon, 22, and Kyle Edmund, 24, reached the semis of the Australian Open, and Zverev, 21, ended the year by clinching the ATP Finals in London.
Still, the Slams were still won by the ‘Big Three’, with Roger Federer triumphing in Melbourne, Rafael Nadal winning Roland Garros, and Djokovic taking the Wimbledon and US Open crowns.
“It’s not the first time that we’re expecting young players to challenge all of us for top positions. So far the top-three guys have been still able to keep those three positions of the world for many years, we’ll see what happens,” added Djokovic.
“But the face of tennis is changing because you’re having more challengers from the younger generation and it’s good. I embrace that, I salute that as a fan of the sport.”
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