'Fiery' Next Gen group on the challenge of replacing Federer, Nadal & Djokovic

With a blend of experience and youth, the ATP Finals field is one of the most intriguing in recent times and the young guns have a great opportunity to make a statement against the old guard of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

While Nadal and Djokovic are battling it out to finish the year as world No. 1, having shared all four Grand Slams between them, the group of players hoping to replace them are plotting upsets of their own.

Three of the youngest four players have landed in Group Andre Agassi, with Stefanos Tsitsipas, Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev standing in Rafael Nadal’s path.

Medvedev and Tsitsipas are making their debuts at the O2 but Zverev enters as defending champion, having beaten Federer and Djokovic back-to-back to lift the 2018 title.

His form dipped the following year, with Tsitsipas and Medvedev both enjoying stronger seasons than their young rival, but he believes progress is being made in their bid to dislodge the ‘Big Three’.

Zverev said: ‘Obviously Rafa, Novak and Roger have had a great rivalry for many, many years, it started from a young age so hopefully we’re the ones… maybe some of the other guys as well, Shapovalov is playing great tennis.

‘Some of the young guys are not here yet but I’m sure they will arrive here very soon. There’s a very strong group of guys. We’ll see how it goes, three years ago when I had my breakthrough season I made it here first time, I didn’t expect to make it that quick.

‘I think if you look at Daniil the year he had was amazing but was also kind of a surprise maybe to a lot of people. We’ll see results that are unexpected but normal, we’ll see other guys starting to win big tournaments.

‘I think the next two years are very exciting. The other guys are still there, they’re playing the best tennis in the world, they’re still better than us, that’s a fact, they’re the ones winning the big tournaments. But I think the younger guys are improving quite quickly.’

Medvedev has especially impressed in 2019 and had reached six consecutive finals before a surprise second-round defeat to Jeremy Chardy at the Paris Masters.

Given his recent form, he perhaps is the most likely of the youngsters to go all the way and he’s confident he can challenge for the title.

‘I’m still confident about my game,’ said Medvedev. ‘Paris was not the result I wanted but it happens, it’s tennis. Jeremy played a great match, I had my opportunities and didn’t use them.

‘Every match you play you can lose or win there’s no draw like in other sports. If I manage to be in great shape on Monday I have the chances to win if I play good, that’s what I’m going to try to do.’

On his young rivals, he added: ‘Hopefully we’ll have a lot of matches to come throughout our career. I’ve played 5 times vs Stef and Sascha, different head to heads between them, hopefully we’ll have a lot of great matches to come.

Tsitsipas, Medvedev and Zverev haven’t always seen eye-to-eye with one another but appeared at ease in each other’s company in the group press conference on Friday afternoon but Tsitsipas believes the ‘fiery’ nature of their relationship will be vital to carry the sport forward when Federer, Nadal and Djokovic all hang up their racquets.

‘I believe the competition between us is really important to the sport,’ Tsitsipas said. ‘We’re all young. I’d say we’re just getting started.

‘It’s very fiery. We all want to beat one another when we face one another but for sure we all appreciate each one’s game. Each one of us plays differently. It’s interesting to see so much variety, we all come in different shapes and sizes.

‘We are the future, we’re the ones who are going to fill the stadiums and the ones who are going to create the future for our sport together.’

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