Shanghai (AFP) - Novak Djokovic said Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal still rate among the world's best on Tuesday after they both dropped out of the top four for the first time in 13 years.
Djokovic said it would be unwise to omit Federer and Nadal from an assessment of the world's top players despite a new wave of talent which is fast closing on the elite ranks.
This week's updated ATP tennis rankings are missing both Federer, 35, and Nadal, 30, for the first time since 2003. The duo have 31 Grand Slam titles between them.
"It's kind of expected to have some new faces in this sport, but I still wouldn't rule out Roger and Rafa and I would not take them out of that context of the best players in the world," Djokovic said at the Shanghai Masters.
The world No. 1 said he had never used the term "Big Four", used to group himself, Federer, Nadal and Andy Murray, who have dominated the rankings and Major tournaments for a decade.
Djokovic pointed to Stan Wawrinka, who has won three Major titles in the past three seasons, and former US Open champions Marin Cilic and Juan Martin del Potro.
"And now you have the new wave of tennis players, a new generation is coming up," he said, singling out Australia's Nick Kyrgios and the 19-year-old Croatian, Borna Coric.
"Kyrgios and Coric, these kind of players that are young and motivated to show to the world that they can compete on the highest level," Djokovic said.
Twenty-somethings Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori and Dominic Thiem are all in the top 10, while Kyrgios and Lucas Pouille are also on the march and are already in the top 20.
Federer, who is missing the end of the season with injury, has dropped to seventh in the latest rankings, while Nadal is down in fifth.