Ex-Slam finalist issues brutal warning to Novak Djokovic amid Serb's shaky 2024 start

Henri Leconte shares his thoughts on Djokovic's 2024 form and results.

by Dzevad Mesic
Ex-Slam finalist issues brutal warning to Novak Djokovic amid Serb's shaky 2024 start
© Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney

Henri Leconte gave some pretty harsh assessment on Novak Djokovic's form and results in 2024 as the 1988 French Open finalist thinks the Serb has lost a step while also warming the record 24-time Grand Slam champion that the younger players are becoming less and less afraid of him.

After a pretty historic 2023 season in which Djokovic made all four Grand Slam finals - set some pretty astonishing records - and also proved he was still the best in the game, the start of the 2024 season has been everything but ideal for the 36-year-old. Entering this week's Monte Carlo Masters, Djokovic is 10-3 on the year and he hasn't yet won a title. 

It's not that Djokovic hasn't won anything this year but it's more about the fact that he just hasn't looked his usual self through the first couple of months of the season as something just seems to be off. 

On the other side, Jannik Sinner - who defeated Djokovic in the Australian Open semifinal - is 24-1 in 2024 and he has already won three titles. Last month, Carlos Alcaraz also ended his eight-month title drought after winning the Indian Wells Masters. 

“The 'Next Gen' has dominated since last year, but they must prove that they can remain at the highest level. Sinner wins and confirms with his exceptional start to the season," Leconte said, via We Love Tennis France

"There's still Novak, but he's older and he's slower. He lost a little liveliness. Younger guys are less afraid because they feel that he is crumbly. Slowly, everything changes."

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic © Getty Images Sport - Matthew Stockman

What did Djokovic say about this topic at the Australian Open?

Throughout the entire Australian Open, Djokovic evidently wasn't playing his best tennis but he still managed to get through his opening five matches. But when the match against Sinner started, it was pretty clear that Djokovic could have a very bad day at the office without delivering his best tennis. In the end, exactly that happened as Sinner absolutely dominated Djokovic 6-1 6-2 6-7 (6) 6-3 to reach the final. 

Sinner's impressive display and win over Djokovic instantly sparked talks if this was the beginning of the end for the record 24-time Grand Slam champion. After the match, the 36-year-old Serb was even asked if he was finally starting to play like someone of his age. 

"Let's see (smiling). Don't know. I still have high hopes, you know, for other slams, Olympics, and whatever tournaments that I'll play. It's just the beginning of the season," Djokovic said after his Australian Open exit.

"It's not the feeling that I'm used to. I mean, it kind of has been incredibly satisfying for me, you know, to start off most of my seasons with a Grand Slam win and never lost in semis or finals of the Australian Open.

"So this time it's a bit different, but it is what it is. Let's see. I don't know. This tournament hasn't been, as I said, up to my standard or criteria or the level that I would normally play or expect myself to play, but doesn't necessarily mean that it's beginning of the end, you know, as some people like to call it.

"Yeah, let's see what happens in the rest of the season."

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic © Getty Images Sport - Graham Denholm

What Djokovic said of Sinner in Monte Carlo?

Upon arriving in Monte Carlo, Djokovic revealed to reporters that he was having "low expectations" for the opening clay Masters of the year and that for him this week would be more about trying to find his rhythm and game on the dirt. 

In Monte Carlo, Djokovic was also asked to address Sinner's impressive start to the season. So far in 2024, Sinner made it all the way at the Australian Open, Miami Masters and Rotterdam, while his lone came against Alcaraz in the Indian Wells semifinal. Also, Sinner is now just one spot below Djokovic after achieving a career-high ranking of No. 2 on April 1st.

“Jannik is the best player in the world this year so far. He has had tremendous success. He has improved a lot. Overall his game, his serve, his movement and mentally he is always there," Djokovic said of Sinner in Monte Carlo.

"In the important matches the difference of Jannik in the past six months and before that is he is winning the big matches. He learned from his experiences before and made himself a tougher player. More of a big time player.”

Novak Djokovic and Jannik Sinner
Novak Djokovic and Jannik Sinner © Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney

In Monte Carlo, Djokovic is the top-seeded player while Sinner is the No. 2 seed. Since Djokovic is in the top half of the draw and Sinner in the bottom half of the draw, their meeting in the Principality could only come in the final.

After a first-round bye, Djokovic plays against Roman Safiullin his Monte Carlo opener, while Sinner takes on the winner of the match between Sebastian Korda and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Novak Djokovic Henri Leconte