Following his defeat in the US Open final, Novak Djokovic was asked whether he felt that the Next Gen had finally taken over the reins. A similar question had been posed to him earlier this year, and at that time Djokovic had replied that a Next Gen takeover was "realistically not happening". However, he gave a more mellow answer on Sunday.
Calling the transition "inevitable", the World No. 1 said that the likes of Daniil Medvedev and Dominic Thiem winning Grand Slams had already proven they were ready to take over.
Todd Woodbridge has now echoed Djokovic's sentiments, claiming that the Serb's loss in the US Open final marks the end of the Big 3 era.
In a piece published by the Nine Network, the former doubles No. 1 compared the New York Major to a pivot which, according to him, was moving in a "completely different direction". Woodbridge added that with the likes of Thiem and Medvedev succeeding on the biggest of stages, the Next Gen could now see themselves as Grand Slam winners.
"With sport, things move on really quickly, new stories, new drama is always created," the 50-year-old said. "This tournament [the 2021 US Open] was a real pivot in the tennis world."
"I feel that the era of the 'Big 3' is over," he added. "Novak may still win one or two more Majors, but I think there's a feeling that this younger generation now see themselves as Grand Slam winners."
Todd Woodbridge also spoke about Novak Djokovic's rivalry with fellow Big 3 members Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, pointing out that the trio had challenged each other throughout their careers. The Aussie further claimed athletes need the motivation that comes from such long-standing rivalries, which is why he believes Djokovic would be hoping for Nadal and Federer to return soon.
"I'm not suggesting Novak will fall off a cliff, because he'll still have the goal of winning a 21st Slam," Woodbridge continued. "But I think Novak would love it if Rafa came back to challenge him, because that's the type of motivation an athlete needs. If Rafa and Roger aren't there, that's a much tougher assignment for Novak."
"We saw Novak Djokovic break" - Todd Woodbridge on the US Open final
Todd Woodbridge also highlighted the manner in which Novak Djokovic's US Open final loss dented his "aura of invincibility". Referring to Djokovic's emotional reactions during the match, the Aussie said it was the first time in the Serb's long career that fans had seen him "break" under pressure.
"I felt that we saw the real human side of it when Novak openly wept before the match was over. We saw inside of Novak, in a way we haven't previously," Woodbridge said. "We know the intensity, and the discipline, and the ultra-strong facade of Novak, but we saw him break."
"For so long he's maintained that aura of invincibility," he added. "But once it starts to slowly shed, can he maintain the intensity and the drive to do what he's achieved in the past?"
Todd Woodbridge further pointed out how Novak Djokovic currently finds himself trying to get past the biggest hurdle of his career - breaking the 20-Slam deadlock that he shares with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Woodbridge believes the Serb needs to ensure a strong outing at the season-opening Slam in Melbourne to keep away feelings of self-doubt.
"He has to have a good Australian Open," Woodbridge said. "If things are going to continue as per normal, he must have a good tournament in Melbourne, otherwise doubts will start to creep in."
"When you set goals, they're so high that you need a series of smaller steps along the way," he added. "And for Novak that was Grand Slam title number 15, 16 or 17. Now he needs to win 21, the most ever, and it's the biggest hurdle of them all."