An ominous warning has been delivered by French veteran Gael Monfils to the rising stars hoping to dethrone tennis’ big three in 2020 – the gap is not closing.
However, it has not stopped 33-year-old Monfils from personally trying to reel in greats Rafael Nadal, Novak Djovokic and Roger Federer this year.
The stage appeared to be set for tennis’ new guard to emerge in 2020 after Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas, 21, became the youngest winner in 18 years of the year-ending ATP Finals back in November.
It came after young guns Austria’s Dominic Thiem and Russian Daniil Medvedev threatened in grand slam finals last year.
However, world No.10 Monfils didn’t expect the world order to change any time soon.
“I don’t know if the gap is closing,” he said. “I feel that those top three guys they’re still winning quite a lot.
We have a few others winning as well. But with the gap (between the top three and the rest of the field) it’s still the same I guess.”
It’s hard to argue with Monfils after Nadal, Djokovic and Federer combined to win the last 12 grand slams.
Yet Monfils is not discouraged despite his grim prediction, even backing himself to threaten after a landmark 2019.
The former US and French Open semi-finalist enjoyed a renaissance last year, cracking the top 10 for the first time since 2016.
Monfils and Benoit Paire on Saturday gave France the best possible start to the ATP Cup, winning their singles matches to claim the tie over Chile in Brisbane.
World No.10 Monfils, widely regarded as one of the most-talented players on tour not to have won a major, had too much in the stretch for top Chilean Cristian Garin, prevailing 6-3 -7-5.
Earlier on Saturday, Paire had to come back from a set down to beat Nicolas Jarry 6-7 (7-3) 6-3 6-3. Garin and Jarry then partnered in the doubles to claim a rubber for the Chileans, winning it 7-5 6-2.
It was a much more-competitive affair than the tie in Perth where Uruguay’s Cuevas brothers were humiliated by the Japanese.
Martin Cuevas, ranked No.523 in the world, was expected to present little opposition for No.121 Go Soeda and that proved the case with a 6-1 6-3 scoreline in favour of the Japanese player.
But eyebrows were raised over the performance of Pablo Cuevas who offered no resistance in a 6-0 6-1 beating at the hands of Yoshihito Nishioka.
Ranked No.45 in the world, Cuevas looked lethargic despite the relatively mild temperature and was dispatched in just 54 minutes by a player ranked 28 spots below him.
Japan are missing former US Open finalist Kei Nishikori, who is out for the summer with an elbow injury.
In Sydney, the tie between Argentina and Poland was decided by the doubles after the singles matches had been split.
Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni teamed up to down Hubert Hurkacz and Lukasz Kubot, 6-2 6-4.
Earlier, Guido Pella had put the Argentines one up, the world No.25 registering a 6-2 2-6 6-2 win over Kamil Majchrzak.
But top-rated Argentine Diego Schwartzman, who admitted to struggling in the heat as the match wore on, went down to Hurkacz, 4-6 6-2 6-3.
“I’m practising in the pre-season, and now the first match with this weather, you know, 45 degrees inside the court, difficult to play, difficult to be ready every single point,” said the world No.14.
“(But) then I think he deserved to win.”
Argentina are without Juan Martin del Potro, who hasn’t played since sustaining a knee injury at Queens last June and has been ruled out of the Australian Open.