On Sunday, Novak Djokovic thrashed Daniil Medvedev in straight sets to win his ninth Australian Open title. The Serb - along with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer - have made it a habit of stopping younger players in their tracks; Djokovic beat both Medvedev and Alexander Zverev during his Melbourne campaign this year.
In his post-match press conference, Novak Djokovic was asked whether denying the younger generation at the big events was something that drove him. The Serb was quick to suggest that he wasn't especially motivated to beat the Next Gen, but that he and his two arch-rivals weren't keen on giving away freebies while they were still active in the game.
"I don't source my motivation from there," Djokovic said. "They're all going through the hardship and the tough hours on the court, off the court, to be able to play at the highest level of tennis. So I have tremendous respect for anybody that is in the tennis shoes and competing at this level."
"They're very close to start winning Major titles more consistently," he added. "But Roger, Rafa, myself are still there for a reason. We don't want to hand it to them and we don't want to allow them to win Slams. I think that's something that is very clear. Whether you communicate that message or not, we are definitely sending that vibe out there."
"We have the experience of knowing what to do" - Novak Djokovic on why the Big 3 are continuing to dominate in best-of-5
Novak Djokovic was further asked during his presser whether the 'Next Gen' lacked the necessary attributes to succeed at the Slams. But Djokovic, who had already won six Majors by the time he was 25 (Daniil Medvedev's current age), replied that the younger generation do have what it takes, and that they would cross that bridge when the time arrived.
"Well, they have definitely the quality to reach the heights of Major tournament trophies," Djokovic said. "I mean, they've proven that. Dominic Thiem has won it in US Open. I think just Roger, Rafa and myself have managed to always play our best tennis at Slams."
While Dominic Thiem won the 2020 US Open last year, Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev have claimed the last three editions of the Nitto ATP Finals. But Novak Djokovic and his 'Big 3' peers are still head and shoulders above the rest at the Slams, which the Serb claimed is largely because of their experience.
"We have the experience of knowing what to do, how we can win matches in best-of-five on different surfaces," Djokovic said. "I think that's made it more challenging for guys that are in the next generation, up-and-coming."
"I'm trying to develop myself in a unique way" - Novak Djokovic on the records he can break in the years to come
Now an 18-time Major winner, Novak Djokovic is just two Slams behind Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the men's all-time list. And among the entire sport, Djokovic is five titles behind Serena Williams and six behind all-time leader Margaret Court.
But on Sunday the Serb brushed aside comparisons with Williams, Court, Federer and Nadal, and asserted that he'd rather chart his own path than try to do exactly what others before him have done.
"In terms of calculating the number of Slams that Rafa might win at the French or somewhere else, myself getting closer to maybe Roger's, Rafa's record, Serena, Margaret... Look, everyone has their own journey and their own way of making history. They've made history already. They made a tremendous mark in our sport. I'm trying to build that and develop that myself in a very unique, authentic way that is suitable to me," Djokovic said.