The champion of 61 titles on clay, Rafael Nadal, has recognized that the younger generation is coming, but stressed that he is still interested in fighting for the most important titles. Nadal, who dropped to world No. 3 on this week's updated ATP ranking list, is tied with Roger Federer on the all-time Grand Slam record list.
The last four Masters events have not been won by Nadal, Federer or Novak Djokovic. When asked about that statistic, Nadal said: "It means it's normal, that's all. The first is that we are missing events. Second, there is a new generation of players who are good.
I think we are 34, 34, 39. That is something usual that nothing is forever. You must be ready to accept that and let's see what is happening." At the Rome Masters, Nadal was asked if he felt that the youngsters were beginning to feel that it was time to win a Grand Slam title.
"Maybe. Let's see in three weeks or four weeks. I don't know. It hasn't been the case yet. But why not? No, of course. Let's see. Hopefully not. Anything can happen," Nadal said. "Like I said, it is not a stronger belief.
We are older and they are always better and better. I don't like to hide the truth. We don't play as many tournaments as before. It is normal that after almost 20 years on the tour there are other generations that are winning tournaments."
Jannik Sinner's run at the 2021 Italian Open came to an end with his second-round loss to Rafael Nadal on Wednesday. Sinner lost in straight sets but provided some stiff resistance to Nadal for most parts of the match.
Jannik Sinner on Rafael Nadal
"For sure I'm more disappointed and especially sad today, because I think obviously we both played quite a high-level match," Jannik Sinner said. "Now it's tough to accept that I'm already out of the court because the first set I was up twice with a break, and the second set I was up with a break.
It's tough to accept, because obviously I think Roland Garros was more like a test to see where I am and this time I knew that I could have and maybe today I should have done something more." The 19-year-old went on to point out that Rafael Nadal played the big points better, much as he did during their encounter at Roland Garros.
"He handled the situations better than me, like the last time. There are for sure lessons that I can learn," Sinner continued. "We have to come together with my team and watch many, many times this match from today. Then we will see what we should have done better."