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Tennis faces sad truth after grim Rafael Nadal update that Novak Djokovic has pointed out

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Tennis is finally seeing the end of the ‘golden era’ of the Big Three and the Williams sisters following Rafael Nadal’s latest injury update. The Spaniard pulled out of the French Open and admitted that 2024 would likely be his final year on the tour during a press conference on Thursday. It comes as Novak Djokovic confessed that a new generation of players had already come to the forefront following his Rome loss to Holger Rune.

Nadal has become the latest player to discuss his retirement just months after Roger Federer and Serena Williams both ended their respective careers within weeks of one another. The ‘changing of the guard’ is a common trope in tennis, but it well and truly appears to be happening as some of the sport’s greatest champions hang up their rackets.

While Djokovic continues to win titles and fend off some of the rising young stars, the Serb himself admitted that a new generation had already arrived when he suffered his second career defeat to 20-year-old Rune. “Yeah, obviously, a new generation is here already,” he said after a 6-2 4-6 6-2 loss.

Currently sitting at No 1 in the rankings, the Serb will be dethroned come Monday – on what is his 36th birthday – as Carlos Alcaraz will return to the top. Giving his assessment of the game, Djokovic said the long-awaited generational shift was finally happening.

I mean, 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. It’s normal,” he continued.

“We’ve been saying this for years, that we can expect it to come, that moment to come when you have kind of shift of generations. I’m personally still trying to hang in there with all of them. I’m happy with – of course, very happy with – my career so far. I still have the hunger to keep going. Let’s see how far I’m going to play.”

As Djokovic questioned how long he would keep competing with the young stars, his long-time rival was putting retirement plans in place. During a press conference on Thursday, Nadal said he would stop tennis for several months to give himself the best chance of a pain-free farewell in 2024.

That would be my objective, to try to stop to face the last year of my sports career with the guarantees of being able to enjoy it,” he said, adding: “I want to play in 2024, which should be the last year of my career. I want to be able to enjoy it and to say goodbye to tournaments that I want.”

The upcoming French Open will mark the first that Nadal has missed entirely since making his debut in 2005. And it will be a taste of the new normal on the tennis circuit, as the light of the sport’s biggest stars begins to go out.

Djokovic will be the last remaining member of the Big Three on the ATP circuit if Nadal’s plans to retire in 2024 come to fruition. And Venus Williams is currently in the midst of a lengthy layoff after getting injured in January.

But as tennis faces the grim reality that these one-in-a-lifetime champions are starting to call it a day, there are plenty of promising young stars who will keep exciting fans for years to come. As Nadal himself said on Thursday – “Players stay for a while and they leave, tournaments stay forever.

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