Following Alexander Zverev’s triumph at the Mutua Madrid Open on Sunday, Novak Djokovic took a moment to address the recent success of younger ATP Tour stars ahead of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome.
The World No. 1, who is bidding to capture his sixth title in the Italian capital this week, was asked in his pre-tournament press conference about the recent generational shift in power on the ATP Tour. The past four ATP Masters 1000 champions, Daniil Medvedev, Hubert Hurkacz, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev, are all former #NextGenATP stars.
“The results are showing that [there is a shift in generations],” Djokovic said. “These guys are playing every week more or less. There are guys like Tsitsipas, Zverev, Matteo Berrettini [and] Andrey Rublev that are winning against all of us and playing a lot and building their ranking points.
“Medvedev as well, of course, [is] challenging for the top spots. Dominic Thiem, of course, has been there for many years. It’s inevitable that it’s going to happen. The change in the FedEx ATP Rankings is coming. Whether it’s going to happen in a month or a year or whatever, I don’t know.”
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While Djokovic is aware that the younger players on the ATP Tour are starting to enjoy more frequent success at the top of the sport, the Serbian was given a big opportunity to reminisce about the greatness of his own generation on Monday.
The 36-time Masters 1000 champion shared a practice session with former World No. 1 Andy Murray, who is training in Rome in preparation for his return to the ATP Tour. Djokovic and Murray have contested 36 ATP Head2Head encounters (Djokovic leads 25-11), including two clashes at this event (1-1). Djokovic outlasted Murray in an epic 2011 semi-final at the Foro Italico, before Murray gained revenge in the 2016 championship match.
“I was very happy to see [Andy]. I haven’t seen him in a while, and it was great to hit with him,” Djokovic said. “I thought he played very well on the court. He moved well, considering it’s clay, which is not the best surface for his hips. Considering what he has been through lately, I think it seems like he’s been feeling well on the court.
“That’s what he’s saying, and that’s [how] it appears on the court itself. We had a nice chat and had a few laughs on the court as well. It was just great. It brought back the old times when we spent a lot of time on the court together, whether it was training or playing against each other.”
Djokovic enters Rome with a 3-2 record on clay this year, following his third-round exit at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters (l. to Evans) and his run to the Serbia Open semi-finals (l. to Karatsev).
The five-time champion will open his Rome campaign against Taylor Fritz, whom he beat in a dramatic five-set encounter en route to his ninth Australian Open title in February. In comparison to previous European clay swings, Djokovic may be short of match practice ahead of that clash, but the top seed is confident he can raise his level and return to his best form.
“I didn’t play so great in Monaco and Belgrade, but I’m hopefully going to change that here in Rome and then [I have] another week in Belgrade before Roland Garros,” Djokovic said.
“Four tournaments before Roland Garros is, I think, enough in terms of match play. I’m building my fitness and I’m building just my game slowly, step by step in order to peak in Paris. That’s definitely where I want to play my best.”