Novak Djokovic suffered a shocking loss
A shaky open service game by Djokovic that lasted 15 minutes set the tone for the physical, tough match that followed, with Denis Istomin winning two tie-breaks in the 1st and 4th sets to take it to a decider. Breaking Djokovic at 4-3 in the fifth, he held serve twice to win, sealing the most important win of his long career.
“I feel so bad for Novak”, a visibly emotional Istomin stated afterward. “I was playing so good today.”
Djokovic’s round 2 exit, his earliest at the Australian Open since 2006, means his half of the draw has opened for other seeds, including Milos Raonic (3), Gael Monfils (7), Dominic Thiem (8) and Rafael Nadal (9). Andy Murray, the world number 1 on the other another side of the draw, will feel closer to a maiden Australian Open title, where he has previously lost 5 finals, 4 of them to Djokovic.
Who is Denis Istomin?
Istomin is a 30-year-old player from Uzbekistan who reached a career-high ranking of no. 33 in 2012. His lifetime coach has been his mother, Klaudiya Istomina, who introduced him to the sport when he was 3. At age 14, he was in a horrific car crash that left him hospitalized for 3 months and unable to play tennis for over 2 years. His credits his mother with helping him get back to the sport. He wears prescription glasses on court. (Djokovic, who also has imperfect vision, opts to wear contacts.)
Last year, Istomin had a 9-match losing streak. His best result at a grand slam before this was reaching the 3rd round at the Australian Open in 2012, where he was beaten by the one and only Djokovic.
This is undoubtedly the biggest win of his career. “Now I can feel that I can play with these guys and to be on the same level”, he stated afterward.
What now for Novak?
Djokovic will lose his championship ranking points from his Australian Open win in 2016. He is still comfortably no.2 but doesn’t have any scheduled matches until Indian Wells in March. For Andy Murray, this loss seals his status as world number 1 until Wimbledon.
Djokovic’s former coach, Boris Becker, has stated he didn’t take training as seriously as he should have in the last six months.
His upset loss is comparable to Rafael Nadal’s first round loss to Lucas Rosol at Wimbledon in 2012, and Roger Federer’s early exit at the same slam in 2013 to Sergiy Stakhovsky.
Asked about what he will do next, Djokovic stated simply, “I take my bags, and I go home.”