Novak Djokovic has heaped the pressure on his Australian Open challenger Daniil Medvedev by declaring that the 25-year-old is among a group of players who are the “the future of tennis” but who have “a lot of work to do” if they want to bring down the Big Three.
World No.1 Djokovic is gunning for his ninth Australian Open crown and 18th major title against Medvedev on Sunday night.
Between them, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Djokovic – the undisputed top three of modern men’s tennis – have 57 grand slam titles, claiming all on offer except one since the 2016 US Open.
Asked by three-time Australian Open winner Mats Wilander about the threat presented by the likes of Medvedev, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas, 33-year-old Djokovic was quick to put it into perspective.
“There has been a lot of talks about the new generations coming and taking over the three of us, but realistically that isn’t happening still.”
“There has been a lot of talks about the new generations coming and taking over the three of us, but realistically that isn’t happening still,” Djokovic told Eurosport.
“I mean we can talk about it all day if you want, but with all my respect about the other guys, they still have, you know, a lot of work to do.
“Of course Dominic Thiem winning the grand slam title [last year’s US Open] is fantastic. I mean these guys are very strong, they play high quality tennis without a doubt. Certainly they will be the leaders, those names that you mentioned, of the future of tennis without a doubt.
“But I’m not going to stand here and hand it over to them. I’m going to make them work their arse off for that.”
“I’m not going to stand here and hand it over to them. I’m going to make them work their arse off for that.”
Medvedev has won all but one of his Australian Open matches in straight sets and is riding a 20-match winning streak, including victory over Djokovic at last November’s ATP Finals.
While Medvedev was oozing confidence after his stunning three-set semi-final win over Tsitsipas, declaring that the pressure was on the Serbian, he remained cautious about Djokovic’s best level.
“To be honest, I think it’s when he’s in the zone he doesn’t miss. He goes down the line, cross, forehand, backhand, he doesn’t miss,” said Medvedev, the world No.4 who will jump up two spots with victory.
“That’s what is … the toughest part of playing against him. I think that’s where I should be good also and that’s where my game is good. Same answer.
“That’s why some matches that we played are really I think unbelievable matches. I find them – you know, few times I saw the highlights, and I was, like, ‘Wow, this level is unbelievable.’ That’s what I have to do to keep up with him on Sunday.”
Medvedev watched the Djokovic drama in the third round when the Serbian fought against an abdominal injury to eventually beat American Taylor Fritz in five sets. Djokovic later said he didn’t know if he’d be ready for the next round.
“I have seen a lot of matches from him because he plays in the evening and we are also in lockdown so I was watching the television,” said Medvedev.
“Yeah, for sure, some controversies. Against Fritz, I went to sleep. I actually thought he was gonna lose because we saw he was in pain. He couldn’t fake it to lose two sets. He was up.”
When he beat Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev comprehensively to reach the final, Djokovic declared he was in better shape.
“I’ve been through a bit of a rollercoaster this tournament, with injury and some tough four-setters and five-setters,” he said.
“I was really looking forward to … play without pain and swing through the ball really nicely. The peak performance came at the right time for me.”
While declaring that Djokovic, aiming to win a third straight Australian Open for a second time, was the clear favourite, Medvedev was happy to embrace the challenge of unseating Djokovic on his favourite surface at his favourite tournament.
“Me, I’m – how you can call it, I don’t know how you call it in English, not an outsider but I’m – the challenger, the guy that challenge the guy who was eight times in the final and won eight times,” said Medvedev.
“We have, since the first one when I was ranked [about] 60, we had always tough matches physically, mentally.
“When I say no pressure, for sure when we get out there we both feel pressure. I want to win my first one. He wants to win number 18.
“I think if we talk in general, well, I have nothing to lose, to be honest.”
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