World No. 1 Novak Djokovic was beaten in Sunday's US Open final by an in-form Daniil Medvedev, thereby ending his bid for the elusive Calendar Grand Slam. Djokovic admitted to the press later that he was far from his best during the match, but he also made sure he acknowledge the growth of Medvedev and the rest of the young players.
It was at the Australian Open earlier this year that Novak Djokovic was first probed about whether the younger players were likely to start winning Majors regularly. The Serb had replied in the negative then, asserting that a Next Gen takeover was "realistically not happening" as the younger generation still had a lot of work to do.
Over the course of this year, Novak Djokovic has large made good on that promise. He has held off several young players like Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev and Matteo Berrettini at the Majors, setting himself up for a record-breaking 21st Major title at New York.
But Djokovic fell at the final hurdle as Medvedev took the Serb apart from the baseline, completely dominating him en route to a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory. And although the Russian is not that young anymore, his triumph over Djokovic could inspire the rest of the newer generation to turn the page at the Majors.
In that context, Novak Djokovic was asked again in the aftermath of his US Open defeat whether the younger players were finally ready to join the head of the table. The Serb replied that although the older players - Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and himself - are "still hanging on", Daniil Medvedev and Dominic Thiem's US Open triumphs are evidence that things are about to change.
"The older guys are still hanging on. We're still trying to shine the light on the tennis world as much as we possibly can," Novak Djokovic said. "But the new generation, if you want to call them this way, is not anymore new. It's already current, established. Of course, they are going to take over."
"I think tennis is in good hands because they're all nice guys and very, very good, high-quality tennis players. They got something to offer on and off the court," Djokovic added. "Dominic Thiem winning here last year, Daniil, I don't know if he's No. 1 now or is soon-to-be No. 1. Look, it's normal. The transition was inevitable."
"We are hoping that the transition will be smooth" - Novak Djokovic on Next Gen's takeover
Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer - popularly known as the "Big 3" - established a stranglehold over the men's tour nearly two decades ago. The trio have won a mammoth 60 of the last 73 Major tournaments, revolutionizing the sport with their success on the court and personalities off it.
It remains to be seen whether the Next Gen is ready to fill their large boots. And Novak Djokovic insisted on Sunday that for the sport to continue being popular, it is "very important" for the newer players to maintain the standards set by their predeccesors.
"We are hoping that the transition will be smooth in terms of the attention and the popularity of this sport. It's very important. We all, of course, want to win on the court, but at the same time we all at the top represent this sport," Djokovic said. "We need to be aware of that, take this responsibility, and try to bring more fans to the world of tennis.
Novak Djokovic also claimed during the interaction that the top rungs of men's tennis, which are currently well-represented by the Next Gen, are looking "really good" right now.
"At the end of the day that's what counts and that's what keeps our sport alive. That's what gives an opportunity to younger players or lower ranked players to live out of this sport," Djokovic said. "We've got to do a better job there, absolutely. I think at the top of the men's game things are looking really good."