Novak Djokovic’s latest statement fuels rumours he may be thinking about retirement

Kevin Palmer
Novak Djokovic Indian Wells 2024
Novak Djokovic at a press conference in Indian Wells

It was a story that few saw coming and the now question of ‘what happens next’ needs to be answered by Novak Djokovic.

As the world No 1 served up an early morning Instagram message confirming his coaching relationship with former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic had come to an end, it took some time to comprehend whether this news was as big as it seemed.

Djokovic has had a curious start to 2024 that included some lacklustre performances and ultimately a defeat in the Australian Open semi-finals, with an early exit at the Indian Wells Masters after a defeat against world No 123 Luca Nardi another unexpected setback for a winning machine who appeared to still have a stranglehold over his rivals in the men’s game as he approaches his 37th birthday.

Djokovic’s decision to withdraw from the Miami Open as he suggested he would rather spend more time with his family than play an ATP 1000 event that appears to mean little to him at this stage of his career fuelled the rumours that his passion to continue to commit to the sport he has transcended is waning.

Now this decision to end his working relationship with Ivanisevic adds to the growing sense that Djokovic is either winding down his career towards a hasty conclusion, or he is eager to have one final push for yet more glory.

The timing of this exit for Invanisevic is interesting, with former world No 1 Andy Roddick among those suggesting a mid-season switch of this nature was unusual.

Did Goran disagree with his decision to withdraw from the Miami Open? Did Novak give him a hint that he is planning to become a part-time tennis player and Ivanisevic didn’t want to be involved in that new approach?

These are questions being asked and only Djokovic has the answers.

With his status as the greatest player of all time assured as he has won more Grand Slams than anyone else and topped the ATP Rankings for more than 400 weeks with his nearest rivals well adrift, it would be natural for Djokovic to lose some of the insatiable hunger that has driven him on for so long.

Yet the end of his rule as the king of the men’s game appears to be coming at a more rapid pace than we were expecting, with the exit of the influential Ivanisevic from his camp another unexpected twist.

READ MORE: Novak Djokovic considering ‘shock’ coaching appointment that will shake up tennis

Ivanisevic became the Serbian’s main coach in March 2022, having previously worked alongside Djokovic’s long-time mentor Marian Vajda for several years.

The world number one said he and Ivanisevic parted ways “a few days ago”, writing on Instagram: “I remember clearly the moment I invited Goran to be part of my team. It was back in 2018, and Marian and I were looking to innovate and bring some serve magic to our duo.

“In fact, not only we brought serve, but also lots of laughter, fun, year-end no1 rankings, record-breaking achievements and 12 more Grand Slams (and a few finals) to the count since then. Did I mention a bit of drama too?

“Goran and I decided to stop working together a few days ago. Our on-court chemistry had its ups and downs, but our friendship was always rock solid.

“In fact, I am proud to say (not sure he is) that apart from winning tournaments together, we also had a side battle in (the board game) Parchisi going on… for many years. And – that tournament never stops for us. Thanks for everything my friend. Love you.”

Djokovic had one of his best seasons in 2023, winning three Grand Slam titles and losing an epic Wimbledon final to Carlos Alcaraz, but this news comes at an uncertain time for the 36-year-old, who also recently split from his long-time agents.

The arrival of business adviser Mark Madden in Djokovic’s camp has been followed by a very visible attempt to remould his image away from the court and get involved in more public appearances away from tennis at awards ceremonies and other sporting events.

That has sparked some suggestions that Djokovic has been distracted by outside interests at a moment when his passion for tennis is being tested and it will be fascinating to see if he decides to make a high-profile appointment of a new lead coach.

The word from Djokovic suggests he may go it alone for now and if he doesn’t appoint a new coach, that may fuel rumours that he is looking to finish his career on his own terms and possibly sooner than we expected.

“I still don’t have a clear idea who a new coach would be, or whether there will be one at all,” Djokovic said.

“I’ve had coaches since I was a kid, now I am trying to feel by myself what I need, what I feel most comfortable with. You will be informed in case someone joins the team.”

Djokovic may feel he doesn’t need to hire a full-time coach for this final chapter of his tennis story, yet such a move would add to the suspicion that we may be witnessing the final chapters of his iconic tennis story.

Yet this defiant champion may just have decided the time has come to freshen up his backroom team ahead of a final push for glory over the next 18 months.

The tennis world will now be waiting to see what Djokovic does next.