The retirement of Roger Federer was the first sign that tennis' golden generation was on the way out, and Novak Djokovic now believes that the new generation has already arrived.
35-year-old Djokovic spoke to the media after he was eliminated from the Italian Open at the quarter-final stage by 20-year-old Dane Holger Rune on Wednesday.
The defeat marks the first time since 2004 that neither Djokovic nor Rafael Nadal will contest the final in Rome, with Nadal missing the tournament this year through injury.
With a new crop of exciting young players coming through, Djokovic believes that the handover to the next generation has already begun, and said that he and long-time rival Nadal will have to fight hard to stay at the top of the game.
Novak Djokovic says new generation have arrived
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are currently tied for the most Grand Slam wins in tennis history, on 22 each - two ahead of the retired Roger Federer.
The trio are naturally regarded as the greatest players of their generation, as well as at the top of many all-time lists - but Djokovic believes their time at the top is coming to an end.
Speaking to the media after his defeat to Dane Holger Rune at the Italian Open, Djokovic noted the rise of players such as Carlos Alcaraz, and said that he would try to "hang in there" with the latest group of tennis hotshots:
A new generation is here already. Alcaraz is No. 1 in the world from Monday, obviously he’s playing amazing tennis. I think it’s also good for our sport that we have new faces, new guys coming up. We’ve been saying this for years that we can expect that moment to come when you have a kind of shift of generations.
I’m personally still trying to hang in there with all of them. I still have the hunger to keep going. Let’s see how far I’m going to play.
The second Grand Slam of the season is fast approaching, with the French Open at Roland Garros getting underway next Monday.
The participation of 14-time French Open champion Nadal is still up in the air, and Djokovic says that that will define whether the next generation comes out on top at Roland Garros:
It depends if Nadal plays or not. Next to him, Alcaraz, Rune - these guys are right there in contention, some of the biggest favourites to win the title.
It will be hard for many fans to fathom a tennis world not defined by Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal - but it seems as though the era of the trio's dominance may be slowly but surely coming to an end.