What do tennis legends say about Nadal

His Italian? Grande! In one go, Novak Djokovic, standing in front of a microphone on the Campo Centrale, thanked the tournament organizer, even though the places in Rome deserved a straight six minus. Hole after hole, and the lines didn't hold up well. Of course, he also congratulated Rafael Nadal, he wore a mask while he delivered his speech in the local language, which suddenly became really funny. "Clearly, Rafa, Roger and I have reinvented the next gen. We are the next gen! ", said Djokovic, and it was to be guessed: He laughed under the piece of cloth, the rogue.

Djokovic thinks: "We're still there too!"

Later, at the press conference, he explained his remark, which had clearly been accompanied by something amusing. Whether he is sometimes bored that such a third is made around the next generation, i.e. the next generation of capable tennis players. "Yeah, that's why I answered the way I answered," replied Djokovic this time. Then he said nice things about those colleagues who were born in the nineties and now also in the noughties, praised them, recognized their class, but concluded his statement with the sentence: "But we're still there too."

Si, si, the Big Three, the Big Three are still alive, should that mean with a dash of satisfaction.

As if to prove it, the 34-year-old Nadal and the 33-year-old Djokovic actually delivered an intense final on Sunday, the Spaniard defeated the Serbs in a whopping 57th duel between the two with 7: 5, 1: 6, 6: 3 , and on Monday 39-year-old Federer also reported back, initially at a press conference. The Swiss paused forever in 2020 due to two knee operations, then played two matches in Doha in March 2021, with one win and one defeat (against the Georgian Nikolos Bassilaschwili). Federer is now daring to compete in his first clay court tournament in Geneva.

The Djokovic-Nadal-Federer Sonderkommando will then be closed for the first time in a year and a half from May 30th at an event, the French Open in Paris. And: You do not appear as an outsider, even if Federer probably has an asterisk behind the shape. What he sees himself: "I would like to say that Paris is the ultimate goal. But I'm not quite ready for that," said Federer. Still: he's back.

The first months and, above all, the last few weeks were extremely interesting, because the younger professional faction has really started a concentrated storm on the top, they circle the three established ones like a hungry wolf pack. Daniil Medwedew, 25, is second in the world rankings, Dominic Thiem, 27, fourth, Stefanos Tsitsipas, 22, fifth, Alexander Zverev, 24, sixth, Andrej Rublew, 23, seventh, Matteo Berrettini, 25, ninth.

The Greek Tsitsipas won in Monte-Carlo and celebrated his first Masters title, in Madrid the German Zverev followed with his fourth in this category. And, above all: Nadal lost against Rublew and Zverev, Djokovic against the British Dan Evans. Were, are they chipped? In Rome again: Match point for the Canadian Denis Shapovalov against Nadal. Djokovic just before the end against Tsitsipas, in the quarterfinals. And then?

In Rome, Djokovic (first) and Nadal (third) stood in the locker room - and laughed. "The old boys are still not giving up," the two said in amusement, as Djokovic revealed before the final. More baring your teeth is not possible.

It was noticeable that Djokovic and Nadal had to mobilize the last reserves. But also: when a Grand Slam like Roland Garros approaches now, your form picks up. And their greed. Isn't it actually unbelievable that someone like Nadal has now won his 88th tournament, his 62nd on red ashes - every time he throws himself into the mud, drunk with happiness, as if he had won the lottery and finally no more fears of existence. And Djokovic? Grumbling and grumbling as if the world was going to end.

My goodness, he had yelled at his team in the box, they sat there like frightened beings, including his manager Edoardo Artaldi, who usually exudes great self-confidence in his chic dandy jackets. Also two o-tones: "After ten titles in Roland Garros, ten in Monte-Carlo, ten in Barcelona, ​​I really wanted this one, no?" Nadal now also received his décima in Rome. Djokovic said: "If I play like I did in Rome, I have a good chance of going all the way at the French Open." Only chief wolves howl like that.

Federer knows: "Lawn is different." He's betting on it.

In Italy's capital it was once again impressive to see how Nadal and Djokovic freed themselves from the tightest of situations, defended themselves with a dedication that sometimes hurt, and right. Nadal tripped over loose lines three times while sliding and fell wildly. In the final he still made the point, fell, jumped up - and cheered with his fist, while the spectators - who were allowed into the stadium in manageable numbers - hooted.

No, there is still no bigger attraction in men's world tennis than this old gen. Incidentally, Federer communicated on Monday: "Grass is different, so of course I hope to be able to achieve big goals as we know it." Wimbledon, just like that, he has won eight times. Fed up? Not what Djokovic calls them, the new next gen!