Jimmy Connors sends Novak Djokovic warning as he gives verdict on young stars ‘stepping up’

Ewan West
Novak Djokovic celebrates
Novak Djokovic shouts during a match

Tennis great Jimmy Connors has warned not to count out Novak Djokovic after the great Serbian’s Australian Open defeat to young rival Jannik Sinner. 

The eight-time Grand Slam champion also feels players like Sinner and Daniil Medvedev “are starting to step up” and believe it is their “turn” at the top of the men’s game.

Djokovic was beaten decisively in four sets by world No 4 Sinner in the last four at the 2024 Australian Open last month – his first defeat at the event since 2018.

After ending Djokovic’s 33-match winning streak in Melbourne, Sinner went on to claim his first Grand Slam crown with a five-set comeback victory over Daniil Medvedev in the final.

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Speaking on the latest episode of the Advantage Connors podcast, Connors praised Sinner and Medvedev, but also explained why writing off the world No 1 would be a mistake.

“What I like about Medvedev and I like about Sinner – seems like these young guys now are starting to step up. I know [Roger] Federer is gone and [Rafael] Nadal has reached another rough patch, he’s gotten injured again – and what the future holds for him, you don’t know,” the American said.

“But ‘Djoker’ still being around and still trying to set records and put his reputation on the line and everything, it seems these young guys are saying now that, ‘Hey, maybe it is our turn.’ And you know, Federer is gone and Nadal is hurt, but ‘Djoker’ is still in there grinding.

“But on the other hand, don’t count him out, because he seems to always find a way to find something to inspire him, to motivate him. You know, to get him back on his game, to get him back on track. So, he’s got those few years on him and that happens to everybody.

“I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I’m saying he’ll find a way to use whatever he can to get back on track and to win a French or win a Wimbledon or a US Open before this year’s out.

“So all this does is set up another good rivalry in tennis (between Djokovic and Sinner) – and it’s needed. It’s needed, the old and the young. Who’s gonna come out on top? This time Sinner did, what’s gonna happen next time? Can’t wait to see that.”

The former world No 1 also argued that the Australian Open men’s final was good for the future of tennis as it was a rare major title match featuring none of the ‘Big Three.’

“It was a different final, to not have a Federer or a Nadal or a Djokovic in the final of a Grand Slam,” Connors said.

“Obviously, they’ve ruled the Grand Slams the last 15 years between the three of them and to have a final where neither one of those three were there just created a little more interest and got some other people watching. Tennis needs that also.

“They (fans) love their champions and they love the winners and those who have set the records and all that. But they also wanna know, when those guys are gone, who is gonna take their place? And I think they’re seeing that now. They’ve had a good view of the young guys coming up.”

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