Nadal and Djokovic refusing to relinquish ground to the young challengers | Tumaini Carayol

The younger generation have hoisted big trophies but still seem far from taking the next step to go all the way at the grand slams

As the Italian Open shifted into action last week, the state of play in men’s tennis four months into the 2021 season seemed relatively clear. The sands are shifting, just gradually. The previous four Masters events and the season-ending ATP Finals had all been won by players of the younger generation, all born in the late 1990s and positioned by the tour as its future.

Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev and even the lesser-known Hubert Hurkacz have all recently hoisted big trophies to the skies while dreaming of taking the next step. And yet, they still seem far from it. When the matches matter most, over best of five sets and deep in the slams, either Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal are usually around at the end and in good enough form to succeed. Unless, of course, one decides not to play and the other disqualifies himself.

Related: Rafael Nadal defeats Novak Djokovic to make it perfect 10 in Italian Open

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