A bullish Novak Djokovic has laid down a challenge to the next generation of men's players, insisting they still have “a lot of work to do” to knock the world number one off his perch.
The Serbian is on the brink of a ninth Australian Open title after overcoming qualifier Aslan Karatsev 6-3 6-4 6-2 in the semi-finals on Thursday.
Only Stefanos Tsitsipas or Daniil Medvedev stand between Djokovic and an 18th Grand Slam title, which would move the 33-year-old to just two behind men’s record-holders Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
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The trio have been the dominant forces in men’s tennis for well over a decade, and with Djokovic’s level in particular showing no signs of dropping, he warned the younger players – including Alexander Zverev, Tsitsipas and Medvedev – must “work their ass off” if they want to topple the old guard before they retire.
Djokovic told Eurosport in the Cube: “Pressure is always there, it’s part of what we do, but pressure is also a privilege. It means you are in the mix, that you’re still doing something that is important and valuable for you and the rest of the tennis world.

'I'm going to make them work their ass off' - Djokovic warns Next Gen

There has been a lot of talk about the new generation coming and taking over the three of us, but realistically that isn’t happening still. We can talk about it all day if you want, but with all my respect about the other guys, they still have a lot of work to do.
“Of course Dominic Thiem winning a Grand Slam title is fantastic. These guys are very strong, play high-quality tennis, without a doubt.
“Certainly they will be the leaders of the future of tennis, without a doubt, but I’m not going to stand here and hand it over to them. I’m going to make them work their ass off for it.”

Highlights: Djokovic cruises past Karatsev into ninth Melbourne final

Djokovic said this tournament in Melbourne so far has been a “roller-coaster”, with the top seed overcoming an injury scare last week before playing what he described as his best tennis yet against Karatsev.
“It was definitely unique,” he added. “It’s hard to compare to some other years, I do have a good memory but I cannot recall every slam how it went from the first to the last, but it has been a real roller-coaster ride without a doubt, with an injury in the third round, the cloud of doubt that I had after the match with Fritz, not training at all in the days between the matches, and having a really tough draw playing big-hitters and players in form.

Djokovic playing 'as well as he has in a long time' - Henman

“I’m really pleased with the way I’ve felt today. In a way it surpassed my expectations today, I literally felt almost no pain today. I moved well and was very focused. The big performance came at the right time.”
“It helps the confidence immensely. Regardless of the fact I’ve been in this situation before so many times, each year is different. You want to get big wins, you also want to get tested. I like to get tested early in the tournament, work my way into form, and I was tested on many levels in the last week or so. All in all, I’m in a very good situation, the way I’m feeling is encouraging.”
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