Tennis has survived generational changes before and will do so again when the “Big Three” of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic retire, world No.2 Daniil Medvedev said on Sunday.
The 25-year-old Russian is part of what has been dubbed the “Next Four” alongside Alexander Zverev (24), Stefanos Tsitsipas (23) and Dominic Thiem (28), a cohort that is looking to write the sport’s next chapter.
“When there was (Bjorn) Borg and (John) McEnroe, when they were close, finished their careers, everybody was like, ‘tennis is over, we won’t ever have any great players, it’s finished',” he said after falling to Zverev in the ATP Finals championship match in Turin.
“We did have some. (Pete) Sampras, (Andre) Agassi, they were at the top. (When) Sampras retired, (it was like again people were thinking) ‘Okay, tennis is over.’
“Then we had Novak, Roger and Rafa. If you asked just before they came, everybody would say, ‘Well, tennis will not be interesting anymore.’
“It’s the same here. Tennis is a great sport, so I don’t see why our generation would miss on something. Of course, maybe we don’t (win) 20 grand slams (each), yet nobody did before Roger, Rafa and Novak, so they were (all in a way) also worse than them... It’s definitely not going to be shameful (if we win less).”
Medvedev defeated Djokovic to earn his first grand slam title at September’s US Open, while Thiem needed a fifth-set tie-break to edge out Zverev in the 2020 New York final.
Zverev and Tsitsipas are both still searching for their first major, with both having squandered two-sets-to-love leads in the 2020 US Open and this year’s French Open finals, respectively.
Federer, Nadal and Djokovic are all tied on a men’s record 20 grand slam titles each.
In the ATP Finals championship match on Sunday, Medvedev looked set to retain his crown, having won his past five matches against Alexander Zverev, but the Russian missed his service “spark” in the title match.
“It’s tough to say, maybe some tiredness of the body, maybe mentally I wasn’t 100 per cent,” said Medvedev, after Zverev won 6-4, 6-4 in the final. “Not that I didn’t want to be, but definitely something was missing. I don’t have the answer, but it made the difference.
“Even when my serve was going on the line, it didn’t really have that spark. It wasn’t enough. Zverev is a great
player and broke me two times. Sometimes, in a way, it’s not bad, but when you’re playing in a big final on a fast surface against someone who is serving like him, it’s enough to win the match. We can talk about many things, but the serve was definitely the key today (Sunday), and he was better.”
Medvedev added: “We all try to do something different, to prepare differently or play differently. I tried to change things and I felt it was working well. But I just couldn’t return his serve and it was enough for him to win the match.”