World No 1 Novak Djokovic took a swipe at all the talk about the younger generation of tennis players, saying the Big 3 were the Next Gen.
Djokovic and Nadal clashed for the 57th time in the final of the Rome Masters on Sunday. The Spaniard defeated Djokovic 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 in two hours and 49 minutes to win his 10th title in Rome.
“The Next Gen young people? Me, Rafa (Nadal) and Roger (Federer) are reinventing the Next Gen. We are the Next Gen,” Djokovic said at the trophy presentation.
Another round of La Decima for Nadal, this time in Rome! 🏆
— ATP Tour (@atptour) May 16, 2021
Both Nadal, 34, and 33-year-old Djokovic had ousted the last two ‘Next Gen’ trophy winners in Rome this week — Italian Jannik Sinner, 19, and Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas, 22 respectively.
Spaniard Nadal, who shares the record of 20 majors with Federer, also saved two match points to defeat Canada’s Denis Shapovalov, 22, and gained revenge on his Madrid Masters slayer Alexander Zverev, 24.
“Rafa is one of the biggest rivals I’ve had in my career, every time it’s a struggle, today almost three hours,” said Djokovic.
“Of course the Next Gen is there, is 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 creates a story.
“People like to talk about it. Fine. The guys are there. They are already establishing themselves in the top 5, top 10 of the world. Nothing new. But we are still there.”
Djokovic leads Nadal in their overall head-to-head record 29-28, but has not beaten the Spaniard on clay since the 2016 Italian Open quarter-finals.