‘Old guys’ vs. young­sters for third day in a row

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Sports - By DEN­NIS PASSA

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.

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