Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer at the ATP Heritage Celebrations in 2013
Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer at the ATP Heritage Celebrations in 2013

The popularity of tennis decreases when Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer & Rafael Nadal keep winning: Teymuraz Gabashvili

Stan
ANALYST

Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal have dominated tennis for nearly two decades, winning a whopping 60 Grand Slams among them. While some reckon that their continued dominance has taken tennis to greater heights, Teymuraz Gabashvili believes it has been "very bad" for the sport.

According to Gabashvili, the popularity of the sport takes a hit if the same players -- Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer -- keep winning again and again.

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Gabashvili, 36, was once ranked in the top 50 in the world, but has fallen down the rankings and now mostly plies his trade on the Challenger circuit.

During a recent interview with Punto de Break, the Russian was asked to elaborate on the changes that could occur on the tour once Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer call it a day.

The Russian was quick to bring up the example of the Indian Wells Masters, where Cameron Norrie triumphed against all the odds, to explain that tennis would be a more open sport.

"Anyone can beat anyone, although this is already happening now," Gabashvili began. "Look at Indian Wells, for example, who was the favorite? Then (Dominic) Thiem will return, (Borna) Coric will return, (Felix Auger) Aliassime will improve, (Andrey) Rublev will improve ... there will be a group of ten players where anyone can win, but also the little ones."

The Russian was then asked whether multiple people winning titles was good for the sport. Gabashvili responded in the affirmative and said he considers the Big 3's continued dominance to be harmful to the sport's popularity.

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"It's good for me, but it's good now," he added. "For 20 years we only had three players, this is very bad. The popularity of tennis decreases when they always win, people get overwhelmed, they want something new but it doesn't happen because they are too good, that's when the problems come."

"The day Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are not there, I have no doubt that Daniil Medvedev will be No. 1" - Teymuraz Gabashvili

Daniil Medvedev at the 2021 BNP Paribas Open

During the interview, Teymuraz Gabashvili was also asked if he felt Daniil Medvedev could become the most decorated Russian in the history of the sport.

Gabashvili answered in the affirmative but acknowledged that Marat Safin and Yevgeny Kafelnikov -- players regarded as the best in Russian tennis history -- both edge Medvedev in a couple of areas.

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"Without a doubt," Gabashvili said. "He already has a Grand Slam, a little later than Marat, but he was not yet world number 1 as Marat and Kafelnikov."

However, the 36-year-old reckons Medvedev could soon usurp Novak Djokovic from the top of the rankings, given that the Serb has a lot of points to defend in the next calendar year.

At the same time, though, Gabashvili warned that Djokovic is still "the best" while Rafael Nadal, too, can never be counted out.

"I think he can get it soon, since Djokovic defends absolutely everything," the Russian added. "In Australia he is worth making semifinals and that Novak does not come out champion, the problem is that Djokovic is still the best and that Rafa will return to the fullest again."

That said, the former World No. 43 firmly believes that Medvedev will be World No. 1 once Djokovic and Nadal call it a career, as the Russian has proven to be better than the other players in his age group.

"The day they (Djokovic and Nadal) are not there, I have no doubt that he will be No. 1, so far it has already managed to be a little better than the (Alexander) Zverev, Rublev and (Stefanos) Tsitsipas," said the Russian.

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Edited by Arvind Sriram
 
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