Before the Australian Open final, Novak Djokovic vowed that if the younger generation of tennis stars wanted to start holding Grand Slam trophies, they better be prepared for him to fight back. 

“I’m not going to stand here and hand it over to them,” Djokovic said in an interview with Eurosport. “I’m going to make them work their ass off for it.”

True to his word on practically every point of the Australian Open final against Daniil Medvedev, Djokovic sent the message loud and clear: A generational shift in tennis is not happening. Not yet. Not now. 

Djokovic’s 18th Grand Slam title, pulling him within two of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the all-time lead in men’s tennis, was as emphatic a message as he could send to top-10 players like Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev and Andrey Rublev who are a decade younger. Better up your game, boys. 

For the next 12 months, how quickly Djokovic can chase Federer and Nadal is going to be the dominant storyline in men’s tennis. Nadal will be favored to get No. 21 at Roland Garros this spring, and Federer is poised to return to the tour in a few weeks after recovering from a knee injury. But Djokovic…