Novak Djokovic is ready to welcome a new generation of champions into the tennis elite, with the world No. 1 anointing Austrian Dominic Thiem as the top contender-in-waiting.
Djokovic came on as a doubles sub at the ATP Cup on Tuesday as he helped Serbia to a 2-1 defeat of Canada in Melbourne,
The Serb won his singles rubber 7-5, 7-5 over Denis Shapovalov and then teamed with Filip Krajinovic to secure the tie with a doubles victory.
Djokovic, along with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, has dominated the Grand Slam title race for the past decade and a half; but the emergence of ATP No. 3 Thiem after winning the US Open shows the status quo at the top is ripe for change.
“I’ve got to say it’s a long-anticipated arrival of a new Grand Slam champion – Dominic Thiem – other than three, four, five of us that have been fortunate to dominate the slams in the last 15 years,” Djokovic said.
“It’s great for the sport that we have new Grand Slam champions. We have new successful young players that are showing the courage and boldness, coming into the biggest stadiums in sport, willing to take on the biggest challenge in facing the three of us, fighting for the biggest titles.”
While he’s still atop the rankings pile, Djokovic knows that change is on the way.
“The future of tennis is in good hands, without a doubt. I know how it feels working your way up, trying to clinch the first Grand Slam title.
“It’s Mt Everest kind of experience until you do it. When you reach that, there’s a huge kind of monkey off your back. After that, you’re entering a new era of your career.
“I’m sure that these (new) guys already have plenty of quality in their work and experience and motivation to get out there and win big titles.
“Rafa, Roger and myself are going to make sure that doesn’t happen for another 10 years at least,” the 33-year-old joked.