"I was super happy for that victory. It was just a dream coming to life", Stefano Tsitsipas told the atpmedia.com upon his win over Novak Djokovic, an elite player. But the young Greek was happy to know that he had crossed the line in defeating Djokovic; a line that for many NextGen players will be a heavy diverse one to overpower.
The NextGen have much talent and self-assurance on moving up the rankings and will eventually rise above other players. But one major issue is the struggle to have victories over their comrades, other NextGens. Eating meals, sightseeing, practicing sometimes together, they have much in common and are buddies.
When the time comes as they wait to hear their name called and walk on court, the realization kicks in that they will be playing sometimes opposite their comrade. The draw can be quite surprising, funny, disappointing, scary and at times terrible when one player is paired to play opposite the other, friends or not.
"There's a big generation coming up of just talented guys...", Denis Shapovalov has said. The struggle is real and can be conflicting; the talent is obvious and unpredictable. The mental aspect often has to come to light whether friend or foe that players over the net are their opponents and the best talented ones will win the match.
"It was a really good match for both of us...It was amazing match for me. Of course, I would have liked to win that match..." smiles Andrey Rublev says about playing Alex De Minaur at the CitiOpen in Washington DC and losing.
The commentator had said it was "A truly titanic battle...the respect is absolute, the match was extraordinary...Andrey Rublev has played his part in a classic". Many, if not most NextGen's have played each other and must continue to diagnose their weaknesses and strengths in order to win.
Players have started playing tennis as young children and Frances Tiafoe has explained that "My Dad says 'you had a dream from such a young age and here you are doing it'". The NextGen has to be fearless and put it all out there on the court otherwise there is no victories and movement in rankings or prestige.
Consistency is paramount. "The most important thing for me was to keep my level throughout the whole year", 19-year-old Alex De Minaur of Australia explains. He believes in his style and feels he'll gain many wins and possibly future titles if he can maintain his good and productive level.
Those are not simple tasks to accomplish but must be worked on 24/7. Another challenge for the NextGen is to defeat top elite players. Battling with a NextGen may feel as though the two are dealing with similar attributes and have been playing and experiencing tennis for the same amount of time.
It is all together different when they must play an elite ATP player who has won over dozens of titles, have more experience and are older than themselves. Stefano Tsitsipas has went through the situation many times. He played France's Gael Monfils.
It was difficult playing an opponent 12 years older and more experienced than himself. "It was a weird game, lots of service breaks and many long rallies...Gael has a rhythm that's not very comfortable when you're on the other side of the net...Sometimes the ball comes slower, sometimes the ball comes faster.
So it confuses you...There are not many players that play this way...I managed to stay patient...I remained calm and focused...that I believe is a big strength from my side..." Tsitsipas said. But the young Greek had gotten through well and won the match at the Rolex Shanghai Masters 7-6, 4-6, 6-4.
One lesson that Tsitsipas learned was coming out on the downside of a match with an elite player too. "I lost to Rafa in Barcelona...it was a great experience facing Rafa in the final..." he had said. Then it was at Toronto's Rogers Cup that he had faced him again and lost again.
"I will have my opportunities again with him in the future, but I'll just have to work hard..." he shook his head saying. Tiafoe had played Roger Federer, Juan Martin del Potro and Alexander Zverev in opening rounds and lost.
It was Tiafoe's only wish to one day be seeded in a slam and not have to face the first time out in a tournament resulting often in being bounced out of the event. "I can show to the world that the young generation can cause some big damage on the ATP World Tour", says Tsitsipas about his ability and the others to play as a NextGen.
But the thought is always at the top of the players' minds on winning over their comrades and over the tough elite players. Denis Shapovalov sums up his experience simply saying "I'm just enjoying the journey, enjoying the battle".