Tennis legend Jimmy Connors was full of praise for Novak Djokovic after the world No 1 won his 10th Australian Open crown to put him a step closer to breaking his own all-time record of 109 men’s singles titles at tour level. The retired American pro had an explicit response to the Serb’s victory as explained what he liked about Djokovic’s game as he also talked up the Big Three rivalry.
Djokovic made history at the Australian Open last month, becoming the first player to win a 10th title in Melbourne Park. While the focus has been on the world No 1 tying Rafael Nadal’s record of 22 Grand Slam titles, Djokovic also put himself closer to another historic achievement with the win as it marked his 93rd overall title to leave him 16 behind Connors’ record of 109.
While the world No 1 is still a long way away from exceeding the 70-year-old’s haul, he and Nadal remain the only active players with a shot after Federer retired with 103 to his name while Djokovic has 93 and the Spaniard has 92, and given Nadal’s injury woes it’s likely that only the Serb will be left trying to chase down Connors.
And it seems that the former world No 1 would have no qualms about the 35-year-old overtaking him, as he gave a passionate analysis of Djokovic and his game on his Advantage Connors podcast. “I want to say this, the guy’s one f***ing great tennis player, right?” the eight-time Major winner started.
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“He is not afraid to go out there and play the game, his game. Win or lose. He’s not afraid to put it on the line. He knows he’s got a bullseye on his back. Even more now.” Connors as also impressed by Djokovic’s ability to be unbothered by his new, young rivals coming onto the scene, having dethroned the ATP’s youngest-ever world No 1 with his Aussie Open win.
The American continued: “And he’s not afraid against all these young guys, who had some pretty good tournaments. But he’s not afraid of that. He plays the game, he’s not afraid to mix it up. He is not afraid to take the ball early, he’s not afraid to get 20 balls to a point. He’s not afraid to figure out a way to win. And, and, you know, to me, I like seeing that.”
The most decorated player in ATP history also talked up the Big Three rivalry as he explained why he thought competition was so important for the sport. “Rivalries are so great. That’s why people show up to watch the game, watch the match, and watch the excitement,” Connors said.
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“Sometimes you got to find a reason, find a reason to dig deeper and come out on top and win. So what is that? Where do you find that? What do you dig into to go down into your guts? Sometimes you got to find something that just burns you to the ground to come out on top.”
And he made a comparison to the likes of Muhammed Ali, adding: “very great player, they’ll find something that pushes them to the limit,” he said. “That’s what drives guys like Joe Montana, Wayne Gretzky, Pete Rose and Muhammad Ali. They always find something to dig down deeper to push them over the top to where they can continue to give it their all.”