Rafael Nadal says he is not ready to move aside for the emerging crop of talent in men’s tennis and vowed to ‘last as long as possible’.
Alongside Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, Nadal has dominated the sport, winning the last 13 Grand Slams combined.
However, there have been some signs that the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev are ready to make their mark at the majors.
For now, those players must wait for the tennis season to potentially resume in August and renew the battle between the elder statesmen and the future stars of men’s tennis.
And speaking in an interview with ESPN, Nadal made clear he was up for the fight.
“The reality is that they are already there,” he said when asked about the young players.
“There are many young players fighting for the maximum and winning important things. They have not been able to do it in Grand Slams, also because we have not left.
“So now there is a very nice fight between young people and old men that I hope will last as long as possible.”
Nadal’s comments come after Boris Becker, who coached Djokovic to six Grand Slam titles in their three years together, issued a plea for the young generation to step up in 2021.
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“Maybe 2021 will see the breakthrough of the young guns because they will be a year more experienced, and the older players are another year older,” Becker told Laureus.com.
“The big three have won everything multiple times. I think it’s for the younger generation to step up.
“The best one of the rest for the last two years has been Dominic Thiem. He’s made three major finals and played beautifully against Novak, losing in five sets in Melbourne.
“I like Stefanos Tsitsipas very much, the way he presents himself on and off the court and the way he plays the game.
“From a German point of view I like Sascha Zverev a lot, you know he was in the semi-final in Melbourne and he’s still only 22, so he has a long career ahead of him.
“There are other younger players that are fascinating.
“I would like to see the top three still at their best, and being beaten. I don’t want the young generation to take over when the top three won’t play anymore or are actually too old.
“I want to see a final between a 22-year-old and a 33-year-old. That would be the best thing in tennis. So guys, step up to the plate.”
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