The sentence, pronounced by Novak Djokovic, dates back to February 2021. “We talked a lot about the new generation that was coming and would take power over the three of us [Federer, Nadal and Djokovic], said the Serb in Melbourne, future winner at the expense of Daniel Medvedev. But if we’re realistic, it still hasn’t happened. With all due respect, they still have a lot of work to do. »

Six months later, the world number one was deprived of a calendar Grand Slam – winning all four lifts in the same year – by the 25-year-old Russian, who even fleetingly sat on his throne in February 2022. In Melbourne this year , the tall staker (1.98m) failed to double the bet, unfortunate finalist against Rafael Nadal, who had already stolen the trophy from him at the 2019 US Open.

With the exception of Medvedev, the players embodying the new generation of world tennis – the German Alexander Zverev, the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas or the Russian Andrey Rublev – have so far all failed to conquer the “Grail” in Grand Slam. A “Next Gen”, thus proclaimed in 2016 by the Association of Professional Tennis Players (ATP, the body managing the interests of the men’s circuit), which imagined it to take over from the three sacred monsters of the beginning of the 21st century . The first “promotion” of these players born from 1995 also included in its ranks the Australian Nick Kyrgios, the Croatian Borna Coric or the Frenchman Quentin Halys.

And now those who were predicted the leading roles see in their rear view rivals even younger than them and at least as starved: the Italian Jannik Sinner (20 years old) and two gifted generation 2003 , the Dane Holger Rune and, above all, the Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz. “Today you are the best player in the world,” praised Zverev, 25, after his defeat in the final against the Iberian Tornado in Madrid in early May. Even though you’re only 5 years old [sic], you kick all of our asses, and it’s good for tennis to see a big star like you emerge. You’re going to win lots of Grand Slams and be number one in the world. »

Semi-finalist in Melbourne at the end of January, Porte d’Auteuil finalist in 2021 against Djokovic, Stefanos Tsitsipas is back on Parisian clay “very hungry”, as he put it before the tournament. Without being as complimentary as Zverev, the 23-year-old Greek can only bow to Alcaraz’s trajectory, never naming this player “under 20, who plays neither for money nor for fame, but simply for the love of this sport”. The Spaniard beat him in all three of their meetings, the last of which came in the Barcelona quarter-finals on April 22.

Medvedev, on the other hand, wears a small smirk when it comes to mentioning the “famous Carlos Alcaraz”. Did some hints of jealousy arise in the locker room? “I don’t think so, it’s not a feeling you can afford to have when you’re a tennis player,” sweeps Camille Pin, consultant for Amazon Prime Video. It’s such an individual sport that others push you to be better. »

Announced since juniors as the future nugget of Canadian tennis alongside his friend Félix Auger-Aliassime, Denis Shapovalov (23) was knocked out in the first round of Roland-Garros on May 24 by Holger Rune, 19 year. Winner of the junior tournament in 2019, the Dane – who will face Tsitsipas in the round of 16 on Monday after eliminating Hugo Gaston in the third round – won the first title of his career in Munich on May 1, eliminating Alexander Zverev in the process. . “Holger plays incredible tennis, he stimulates the very best players,” said Shapovalov, the No. 14 seed, admitting to himself having “a few little things to improve but [being] ready for the Grand Slams.”

Arnaud Clément makes a severe, almost categorical statement against these young wolves who could well be grilled on politeness: “The Zverevs, Tsitsipas… have not succeeded in taking power over the three. They will pass them when age has caught up with these players, not because they have managed to dominate them tennistically, believes the former 10th in the world. Result, they put themselves at the mercy of those who arrive behind. »

Returning to Geneva in mid-May, after undergoing hernia surgery in March, Daniil Medvedev recalled some fundamental truths: “Keeping up at a very high level is very difficult, and that’s where the Big 3 is very strong . When Nadal, Djokovic and Federer are in a tournament, we know that they always have a very good chance of winning it. But these are exceptions. For the others, it doesn’t work like that, “said the world number two, quoted by Le Temps. Although he was not officially part of this “Next Gen”, Dominic Thiem (born in 1993) embodies better than anyone the patience necessary to successfully climb Everest in tennis. The Austrian had to wait for his fourth Grand Slam final, at 27, to finally triumph at the US Open in 2020, in a table stripped of his three giants.

Patron of Roland-Garros until last year, Guy Forget considers these new enticing rivalries. “This Next Gen brand is solid, but it’s being corrected by a guy younger than them. And that’s going to tickle them, push them to put the collar back on. It remains to be seen whether Carlos Alcaraz manages to succeed where his young predecessors still block: “In Grand Slam, where it really matters, insists Arnaud Clément. We’ll see if he has the guns or not. Even if he passes the stages very quickly, he will have to manage additional pressure, the sequence of matches in five sets, permanent solicitations. We will have to see over time. »

The Canadian Félix Auger Aliassime, 21, judges this little game of comparisons between the younger generations a bit vain: “”Next Gen”, “new Next Gen”… We must stop putting ourselves into categories. In the end, we are the age we are, we do our best, “he replied on May 27 after qualifying for the knockout stages. While noting that last season “it was only youngsters against Novak in the finals” in the Majors and they played every Masters 1000 except Roma (Nadal) and Bercy (Djokovic). “It’s true that Rafa and Novak have still had a lot of success in recent years and remain difficult to beat. But in the next few years, that will change, that’s for sure. »

Despite a fierce battle in five rounds, the panache of the Canadian was not enough for him, Sunday, to overthrow the Mallorcan, who will find his best Serbian enemy Tuesday in the quarterfinals. A defeat which reminds us that before sharing the cake between new generations, they will first have to send the two indestructible to retirement.