NextGen close to Slam success: Djokovic, Latest Tennis News - The New Paper

NextGen close to Slam success: Djokovic

World No. 2 Novak Djokovic said yesterday that tennis' young guns were "very, very close" to winning a Grand Slam, with emotional maturity the only missing ingredient if they want to take the final step.

The 16-time Major winner, who is gunning for an eighth Australian Open title, knows that the dominance of himself, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who have 55 Slam crowns among them, has to ultimately end.

But for that to happen, the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Daniil Medvedev and Dominic Thiem still have work to do.

"Well, they're coming closer and closer. It's obvious," said the Serb, who has been at the top of the game for over a decade.

The 32-year-old, who starts his title defence against Jay-Lennard Struff in the opening round today, recalled how far the young ones have come as an indication of their potential.

He pointed to Russia's Medvedev pushing Nadal hard in last year's US Open final, Greek Tsitsipas making the semis at Melbourne Park a year ago and Austria's Thiem reaching the Roland Garros finals in the last two years.

"They're literally one set away. On a given day, in the very near future, I think that can happen, " Djokovic said of one of them taking the final step.

"I don't think they are missing too much... They possess very powerful games that require a lot of skills, and they have those skills. They have put in the hours and dedicated themselves on and off the court."

But they still needed to develop another essential characteristic, and that generally comes with experience, he added.

"To win a Slam and also to be consistently on the top level for many years, it takes a player to gain that mental and emotional maturity and experience to understand his own strengths, to kind of fight his own fears."

Djokovic was also saddened by the sight of players and ball kids struggling in smoky conditions during last week's Australian Open qualifiers.

"Luckily they have three closed courts with the roof," he said. "But still there is so many matches, so many players. Let's hope that the worst is behind us."

Victoria's Environmental Protection Authority rated the air quality in Melbourne as "good" yesterday and forecast conditions would remain that way for the opening three days of the tournament. - AFP, REUTERS