Djokovic dumped out by Istomin
Originally published on 19/01/17 00:00
Rod Laver Arena is usually the happiest of hunting grounds for Djokovic, having won six Australian Open titles in the stadium, but he suffered one of the biggest upsets in the tournament's history, losing 7-6(8) 5-7 2-6 7-6(5) 6-4 to the Uzbek wildcard.
Djokovic had never lost to a player outside the world’s top 100 at a Grand Slam – previously the lowest-ranked player to beat the Serb at a major was world No.75 Marat Safin at Wimbledon in 2008, incidentally the last time Djokovic fell in the second round of a Slam.
It was an error-strewn display from Djokovic, who made 72 unforced errors, including nine double faults, but it was a courageous performance from Istomin, who threw caution to the wind and pulled off the biggest victory of his career after nearly five hours on court.
“I feel sorry for Novak, I was playing so good today,” said Istomin, who is coached by his mother, Klaudiya Istomina. “I surprised myself today. There is so much emotion on my mind.
“It is the biggest win for me, it means so much. Now I can feel I can play with these guys, to be with them on the same level.”
Istomin, who earned his wildcard by winning Tennis Australia’s Asia-Pacific wildcard play-off, had previously only reached the Australian Open third round twice in 2010 and 2014, losing in straight sets to Djokovic on both occasions.
Indeed, in five previous meetings with the Serb, Istomin had only won a single set, but he won a gruelling first set after an hour and 25 minutes as Djokovic struggled to settle into his rhythm.
The world No.2 looked to be back on track when he won the following two sets, but Istomin roared back to clinch the fourth with an ace and take the match to a decider. A break in the fifth game put the Uzbek in command, and he held his nerve to wrap up an historic victory.
“All the credit to Denis for playing amazing,” said Djokovic. “He deserved to win. No doubt, he was a better player in the clutch moments. He stepped it up, played aggressive. He served very well, very precise. There's not much I could do.
"Of course, I was not pleased with my performance overall. But I have to congratulate my opponent today.”
It proved to be a missed opportunity for British No.2 Kyle Edmund, who would have expected to play Djokovic in the third round, had he beaten Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta on Thursday. Edmund, who lost in straight sets to Djokovic in the fourth round at the US Open last year, would have fancied his chances against Istomin, but he lost 6-2 6-4 6-2 to the No.30 seed on Court 13.
Carreno Busta will now meet Istomin on Saturday as the bottom section of the men's draw opened up, with Dominic Thiem (8), David Goffin (11), Grigor Dimitrov (15) and Richard Gasquet (18) the highest seeds remaining.
There are still plenty of big names left in the third quarter of the draw, with Milos Raonic, Gael Monfils and Rafael Nadal all progressing to the third round. Nadal made light work of 2006 Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis, beating the Cypriot 6-3 6-1 6-3 to set up an intriguing third round clash with highly-rated German teenager Alexander Zverev.
Meanwhile Milos Raonic lived up to his billing as the No.3 seed with a straight sets win against the big-serving Gilles Muller. The Canadian will face a very different challenge in third opponent Gilles Simon, while Monfils needed four sets to beat Alexandr Dolgopolov on Hisense Arena.