The rise of the new ATP generation may be inevitable – but clay king Rafael Nadal plans to hold on for as long as possible against the onslaught as he begins as second seed at the Rome Masters.

With the last four Masters 1000s won by players outside the Big 3 of Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, something is afoot in the longstanding ATP hierarchy.

And Nadal, who turns 36 on June 3, knows it.

“It’s normal that after almost 20 years on the Tour there is 

another generation winning tournaments,” the nine-time Rome champion said.

“We’ve been achieving almost every important event for the last 19 years. Nothing strange, I’m 100 per cent ready to accept that. 

“But I’m going to keep fighting. In two weeks and a half, there is another Grand Slam that I like to play. I’m going to fight to try to play well there.” 

The 20-time Grand Slam champion said major change has already begun on the men’s circuit.

“It means that is something normal, that’s all. 

“We (Big 3) are missing events; there is a new generation of players that are good. We 34, 34, 39 – it’s usual that nothing is forever. You need to be ready to accept that.”

But the 13-time French Open winner added: “Let’s see in three weeks or in four weeks (how the NextGen do in Paris). Anything can happen.

“We’re older and they are always better and better. I don’t like to hide the truth, but we are not playing as many tournaments as we did before.”


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