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Rafael Nadal hints Novak Djokovic has had it easy against new generation

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Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner have emerged as the next generation of star names on the ATP Tour, but Rafael Nadal is not convinced they have taken the game to the next level.

Alcaraz and Sinner have made Grand Slam breakthroughs in recent years, with both beating Novak Djokovic on their way to winning the titles at Wimbledon and the Australian Open.

That has sparked suggestions that the next generation is ready to take the game to the next level, but 22-time Grand Slam king Nadal is not so sure.

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Alongside Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, Nadal dominated the big tournaments in tennis for the best part of two decades, with their era slowly coming to an end as the sands of time caught up with the great champions.

Yet Nadal argued Djokovic’s success in winning the Australian Open, French Open and US Open last year confirmed he is yet to be dethroned as the man to beat in men’s tennis, even as he approached his 37th birthday.

You showed why you are kings of clay, says Novak Djokovic to Rafael Nadal -  The Statesman

In an interview with the Tennis Channel, Nadal acknowledged the rise of new stars in the men’s game, but he argued the dominance of Djokovic in 2023 suggests they have not taken the game away from

“I don’t know. No idea. Of course, they are amazing players, but at the same time, if we put in perspective that Novak Djokovic won three of four Grand Slams and played the final of another one, I mean he’s from my generation.

“So of course they’re doing amazing things. But on the other hand, a player from my generation and similar. I mean, of course, little bit better numbers, but a similar level at the level that we played, for a long time, still having a lot of success.

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“That says that tennis has amazing new champions, but at the same time, things haven’t changed that much.”

Nadal’s comments have sparked suggestions that he was hinting Djokovic has had an easier run to Grand Slam titles since he was taken out of the game due to injuries and Federer announced his retirement in 2022.

That observation is backed up by facts, with Djokovic winning 12 of his 24 Grand Slam titles since 2018, when Federer and Nadal were on the slide for a variety of reasons.

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Djokovic’s longevity at the top of the game is a hugely impressive facet of his legacy, but he has also admitted the challenge of winning big titles has changed since his biggest rivals made their exits.

“So everything happens in life for reason and I think that it’s beautiful for our sport that we had, amazing rivalries that have really marked an incredible two decades,” said Djokovic.

“I remember John McEnroe was saying in one of the documentaries that I’ve seen recently that when Bjorn Borg retired, he felt like part of him also retired, even though he kept going.

“That’s, I must say, a similar feeling that I have with Roger retiring and Rafa not playing much at all. It’s a strange feeling.

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“I mean, I try to find a new rival, and I had some great matches with Alcaraz and Sinner lately, but they still remain the two biggest rivals I’ve ever had.

“I don’t miss them, but I’m sure tennis misses them. These two are legends of our sport. They left a very great legacy both in tennis and in sports in general.”

Djokovic looks certain to finish his career as the greatest tennis player of all-time statistically, but Nadal may well be among those who believes those figures could have a different complexion if he could have continued to play at the top of his game for a little longer.

 

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