The emergence of the ATP NextGen – Stefanos Tsitsipas, Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev among others – has alerted the traditional Big Three – Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

The Serbian seems to be peeved by the sudden questions regarding the emergence of the NextGen stars. More so, about the waning power of The Big Three to maintain their dominance at the helm of the game, which the trio has dominated for the last decade and a half.

It started with Nadal acknowledging the emergence of the younger players who had won the three Masters 1000 titles leading up to the Italian Open. But the Spaniard made it clear that he will not stop fighting for the major titles.

Djokovic and Nadal overcame many odds against the likes of Tsitsipas and Denis Shapovalov respectively, to make it to the final at the Italian Open which the Spaniard won in three sets. After the game, Djokovic was asked about the NextGen, which saw him joke that Nadal, Federer and him were the new generation owing to their ability to continue winning the major titles.

The Next Gen young people? Me, Rafa (Nadal) and Roger (Federer) are reinventing the Next Gen. We are the Next Gen," Djokovic said after receiving the runners-up trophy in Rome.

It was the first ATP Masters 1000 title for a player in The Big Three since the 2020 Italian Open. Tsitsipas, Zverev and Hubert Hurkacz had won the three Masters tournaments – in Miami, Monte Carlo and Madrid – earlier in the year.

Despite their emergence, Djokovic still considers Nadal his biggest rival and believes his most difficult matches are against the Spaniard. The Big Three have a combined 58 Grand Slam titles between them and continue to be the favourites going into the biggest tournaments.

The Serbian tennis star admits that the younger generation is making inroads in to the top 10 in the ATP rankings but he remains the world No.1. Nadal has slipped to third behind Medvedev but will be among the main contenders going into the French Open later this month.

"Rafa is one of the biggest rivals I've had in my career, every time it's a struggle, today almost three hours," Djokovic said. "I mean, I said it thousand times. I don't know how many times people want me to repeat it."

"Of course the Next Gen is there, is coming, whatever. But here we are still winning the biggest tournaments and Slams," he added. "I don't know what to tell you other than that. I'm not focused on the Next Gen even though I know people, you know, it creates a story."

"People like to talk about it. Fine. The guys are there. They are already establishing themselves in the top 5, top 10 of the world. Nothing new. But we are still there."

Roger Federer
Rafael Nadal feels Federer is the best in the history of the sport but labels Djokovic 'invincible' Getty