Novak Djokovic reveals ‘next big three’ who will force him out of tennis
Novak Djokovic says Carlos Alcaraz, Jannik Sinner and Holger Rune will ‘carry’ tennis soon, and when they do he will take his cue to quit tennis.
Sinner, Alcaraz and Rune make up three of the top five players in the year-end ATP rankings, with Djokovic and Medvedev the other two.
Djokovic played all three in Turin, beating all three, including Sinner in the final, although he did lose to the Italian in the Round Robin stage.
He has had a good look at all three this year and has already lost one Grand Slam final – Wimbledon – to Alcaraz.
Understandably, he has been impressed. So impressed, in fact, that he thinks they will become the next ‘big three’ in men’s tennis, replacing himself, Rafael Nadal, and the already retired Roger Federer.
And, when they do and he can no longer compete with them, that is when he will know it’s time to walk away.
“Carlos, Jannik and Holger are the big three,” he said in Turin. “The next big three, if you want to call them.
“They are going to carry this sport. I will hang on for as long as I feel like hanging on.
“As long as I’m able to win against them on the big stage. I’ll still keep going because why stop if you’re still winning the biggest titles.
“Once they start to kick my butt, then I will consider probably having a little break or maybe a permanent break from professional tennis.”
What has Djokovic said about the ‘next big three’
Novak Djokovic’s comments don’t come as a surprise given how generous he has been with praise for Alcaraz, Rune and Sinner before.
Here is a reminder of what he has said about each.
Novak Djokovic on Carlos Alcaraz
Djokovic lost to Alcaraz in the Wimbledon final, and after that match he fielded questions from the press about just how good the Spaniard was.
The answer was clear – he isn’t like himself, Federer or Nadal – he is a combination of all three.
“I think people have been talking in the past 12 months or so about his game consisting of certain elements from Roger, Rafa, and myself. I would agree with that. I think he’s got basically best of all three worlds,” said Djokovic.
“He’s got this mental resilience and real maturity for someone who is 20 years old. It’s quite impressive. He’s got this Spanish bull mentality of competitiveness and fighting spirit and incredible defence that we’ve seen with Rafa over the years.
“And I think he’s got some nice sliding backhands that he’s got some similarities with my backhands. Yeah, two-handed backhands, defence, being able to adapt. I think that has been my personal strength for many years. He has it, too.
“I haven’t played a player like him ever, to be honest. Roger and Rafa have their own strengths and weaknesses. Carlos is a very complete player. Amazing adapting capabilities that I think are a key for longevity and for a successful career on all surfaces.”
Novak Djokovic on Holger Rune
Rune has already earned Djokovic’s respect, with the Dane beating him in a Masters final last season in Paris.
They met again at the Paris Masters final this year, and although it was Djokovic who came out on top, he still gave Rune an enormous compliment, essentially saying his game reminded him of his own.
“We have similar games,” he said. “Move well, defend well and all-round players.”
Novak Djokovic on Jannik Sinner
Sinner beat Djokovic himself in the round robin stage and then could have emilinated the Serbian from the tournament had he lost to Rune in his final group match.
While probably tempted, the Italian remained true to his sporting beliefs and battled to beat Rune and preserve Djokovic in the tournament.
That might have come back to bite him in the final, when Djokovic turned the tables, but he has more than earned the admiration of the world number one.
“He needs to keep going because he’s definitely on the right path,” Djokovic said of Sinner.
“I’m not the only one who is saying he can win slams and be No. 1 in the world. I would be very surprised if that doesn’t happen.
“I don’t know if it’s next year or the year to come. He’s 22. He has a lot of time ahead of him.”
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