Novak Djokovic hits back at quality claims as he answers Toni Nadal snipes

Novka Djokovic attends a press conference

Toni Nadal has suggested the standards in men’s tennis are on the slide in the absence of his nephew Rafael, yet that verdict has been comprehensively dismissed by Novak Djokovic.

Nadal, who was coach to Rafael during his iconic career that yielded 22 Grand Slam titles, caused a stir when he claimed the quality of the game has dipped in recent years.

In an interview with El Pais, Nadal offered up comments that have become a big talking point in the game.

“We have placed Roger Federer and Carlos Alcaraz as the two leaders of yesteryear and today,” he said.

“The rest of the panorama that has been revealed to us has given a fairly clear advantage in favour of those of the previous decade.

“The top tennis players of a few years ago were better than those of today. I think that it is most likely so.

“That before the players were noticeably better and much more competitive than those of the present moment.”

He went on to suggest the 36-year-old version of Djokovic is not comparable to the Serbian when he was at his best.

“The current Djokovic is well below that of five or ten years ago,” he added.

“Without a doubt, Nadal would surpass (Daniil) Medvedev, (Andy) Murray would be better than (Alexander) Zverev, and (Stan) Wawrinka better than (Casper) Ruud.

“Juan Martin Del Potro would also beat (Andrey) Rublev, and (David) Ferrer the same with (Holger) Rune.

“I am surprised by the general lack of consistency and regularity. With the exception of Djokovic and Alcaraz, the level offered by the majority is disappointing.”

They were sweeping comments that sparked plenty of discussion, as some of the tennis we have seen over the course of 2023 has been the most exciting many fans can remember.

All this in a year when Federer and Nadal were not part of the equation and a new breed of stars emerged, led by the magnificent Alcaraz.

Djokovic was asked about those comments as he eyes up another US Open title and he was quick to dismiss Nadal’s claims that the quality at the top of the men’s game is in decline.

“I don’t agree with that because each generation has a group of great players who lead,” said the Serbian.

“Now there are (Jannik) Sinner, Rune and Alcaraz. They are dominating most tournaments in the last two years.

“The way Carlos plays, how he defends, how he attacks… It is very complete. Alcaraz would have won the same thing 10 or 15 years ago.

“Each generation has its own champions. Tennis has changed and evolved.”

When asked whether the Djokovic of ten years ago would be the current version he added: “What is certain is that it would be a great battle.

“Of course I had more energy and mobility, but now I have more experience and I am much stronger mentally.

“With my team, I try to be better every year because it is the only way to face today’s young people to win the Grand Slam.”

In truth, this is a debate that does not have a definitive conclusion, but it certainly makes for a great talking point as Djokovic looks to move two clear of Rafael Nadal in the all-time list of Grand Slam winners by clinching another US Open title.

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