Rafael Nadal
Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have won 33 of the last 41 Grand Slams. In this picture, Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer attend the ATP Heritage Celebration at The Waldorf Astoria in New York City on Aug. 23, 2013. D Dipasupil/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal praised the younger generation of tennis players coming through on the ATP Tour and believes they have the level of reaching the top of the game in the future. But the world number one is unsure if they can emulate the big three’s — Roger Federer, Nadal and Novak Djokovic — domination of tennis over the last decade and a half.

The trio have won 33 of the last 41 Grand Slams and have a combined 48 major titles between them, which equates to 12 years of dominance in the major tournaments if won consecutively. Only Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka — three titles apiece, and Juan Martin del Potro and Maric Cilic with one title each were able to break their stronghold on the majors.

Federer, Nadal and Djokovic were unbeatable at their best and hardly gave any other player a chance to break their domination on the game in the last 14 years. Most of the records of the current era have the three players vying for top spot.

The Swiss ace and the Spaniard are still at the top of their game with them ranked number two and number one in the world respectively — if Nadal defends his title at the French Open in 2018, they will have three Grand Slam titles apiece in the last 17 months. Djokovic is currently ranked 12th in the world, but that is due to his struggles with injury in recent months.

Nadal is certain that the upcoming players have the talent to take the game forward, but admits it is unlikely that they will be able to emulate the current generation’s achievements in the game.

“We have to be realists,” Nadal said, as quoted by the Express. “We are in a generation in which Federer has won 20 Grand Slam tournaments. I have 16, Djokovic has 12. To combine all those triumphs in the same generation is complicated. …

“And it will be difficult, but there is a great talent ahead. They will occupy the place that now Federer, Novak Djokovic or myself have because they take us ahead,” he added. “They have level, of course they have it, but are we going to have a generation like Federer, Djokovic? I do not know.”

The likes of Alexander Zverev, Heyon Chung, Nick Kyrgios, Dominic Thiem, Francis Tiafoe and Andrey Rublev among others have shown they are capable of challenging the best. But Nadal is of the view a player requires more than just God given talent to have a chance of being successful in the long run.

“There are people who have talent, but there are others who have the ability to improve. And those who have more capacity to improve are usually those who have more options to succeed. It's always the same story,” the 10-time French Open champion explained. “It is the ability that one has to improve, not to self-shape and get up every day with the illusion of training.”