‘Old guys’ vs. youngsters for third day in a row
MELBOURNE, Australia — So far the older guys are holding court against the new generation at the Australian Open.
On Saturday, 31-year-old Novak Djokovic beat 19-yearold Denis Shapovalov 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-0.
A day earlier, it was 32-year-old Rafael Nadal defeating 19-year-old Alex de Minaur 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.
And on Sunday night, the elder statesman of the group, 37-year-old Roger Federer, faces 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas in a fourth-round match at Rod Laver Arena. It will be Federer’s 101st appearance on the tournament’s main show court — and Tsitsipas’ first.
“It’s great to see new faces and it’s great to see young players challenging the best players in the world,” Djokovic said. “I salute that and I respect it a lot.”
While Shapovalov and de Minaur professed to having nerves playing two of their idols, and Tsitsipas has said he expects the same against Federer, all three of the youngsters have credentials and a game that earmark them for the sport’s future once the Big 3 call it a day.
Tsitsipas won his first title last year and his ranking rose from 209 in 2016, to 91 at the end of 2017, to 15 at the end of last season.
De Minaur won his first ATP title at the Sydney International last week and also saw his year-end rankings improve from 354 to 208 to 31 of late. Shapovalov made the semifinals at three tournaments in 2018, and his yearend rankings have soared from 250 to 51 to 27.
All they need is more experience playing big matches against big players at big venues.
Shapovalov got that Saturday.
“It was a little bit difficult for me in terms of it’s not every day I’m playing a match against a top guy like this on a stage like that,” Shapovalov said. “Definitely I was a little bit nervous, a little bit tight on everything, just hesitating a little bit.”
The jitters went away eventually and he ended up taking a set from Djokovic.