"The guy's one f**king great tennis player" - Jimmy Connors praises Novak Djokovic, compares Big 3 with Muhammad Ali, Joe Montana and Wayne Gretzky
Former American tennis player Jimmy Connors has praised Novak Djokovic for his tennis abilities following the Serb's 2023 Australian Open triumph.
A year after getting deported from Down Under, Djokovic made a dominant return to the country. He dropped just one set en route to a record-extending 10th title at the Melbourne Major.
The win also propelled him to the top of the ATP rankings and saw him tie Rafael Nadal's record of 22 Grand Slam titles.
Eight-time Grand Slam champion Connors, speaking on an episode of the Advantage Connors podcast, praised Djokovic for his determination and pursuit of success. He said:
"I want to say this, the guy's one f**king great tennis player, right? 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."
"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."
Tennis fans have long been divided over who the sport's GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) is, with Roger Federer, Nadal and Djokovic all having credentials to claim the title. In that context, Connors hinted that the rivalries among the Big 3 helped each of them achieve such great success in tennis.
"Rivalries are so great," Connors said. "That's why people show up to watch the game, watch the match, and watch the excitement. 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."
The former World No. 1 further stated that all great athletes, irrespective of the sport, always find something that pushes them to do better every single day.
"Every 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."
Jimmy Connors defends Novak Djokovic's COVID-19 vaccine stance, takes a jibe at Serb's critics
On the same podcast episode, Jimmy Connors defended Novak Djokovic for his stance on not taking the COVID-19 vaccine despite facing criticism from all corners.
Praising the 22-time Grand Slam champion, Connors said:
"The guy stood up for his beliefs, right or wrong. He stood up for his beliefs and he was willing to stick by that, to the point of being ostracized from the game. That's brutal."
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