Djokovic Suffers Shock Upset to Istomin in Melbourne

This has to go down as one of the biggest upsets in recent years probably only surpassed by Nadal’s French Open loss to Soderling in 2009. Djokovic had won the Australian Open five out of the last six years.

It is his best tournament and after returning to form in London last year and Doha this year you’d thought he is for sure the favorite to win the title. I didn’t even bother to watch the match because of the hours, thinking Istomin would hardly provide resistance.

How wrong I was. But any player around the top 100 can have a day like Istomin did where they just can’t miss and basically play flawless tennis. That’s just tennis and upsets happen. Djokovic didn’t even play badly in the 6-7(8), 7-5, 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-4 defeat.

But there was something subtle missing from his game that I only picked up after watching the full rerun. For instance the mishit at 8-8 in the first set tiebreak or the unforced error on break point at 0-0 in the fourth set.

A match like this is decided on one or two points and those misses are what can make the difference. I’m not sure the Djokovic of 2015 would have missed those shots but one doesn’t want to be overly critical.

Then you fail to give the proper credit to the opponent as well. The match could have gone either way. Had Djokovic converted the set point at 8-7 on his serve in the first set tiebreak he would have won the match 99% certain.

But Istomin made a great defensive play and Djokovic’s slice approach hit the tape. It’s literally a matter of millimeters and centimeters. And this time it didn’t go Djokovic’s way. I think Djokovic also made too many unforced errors especially on the backhand side which is normally so solid.

That said, I find it hard to tell whether there was really something missing in his game or whether he just had a tough draw and lost to a guy who was in the zone on the day. I mean you are not going to expect him to peak in the second round, are you?

Maybe one can say that Djokovic was close to his best again after winning Doha but he wasn’t quite there yet. I said he had to win the Australian Open for it to be official after all.

But honestly, he couldn’t have been far off his best.

  • What Does This Loss Mean for Djokovic Going Forward?

Whatever the case may be, this is a big setback because this was the tournament where he had to take a stand after what happened in the second half of last year.

This will definitely not help his confidence and the slump seems official now. Just like it would have been official that he is back if he won the title. It doesn’t mean he is now in terminal decline, but this was his big chance to get back on track.

This loss complicates things and makes it harder for him to get back to his previous position of dominance. Not that getting back to the 2015-2016 dominance was realistic but it makes it harder to get back to number one.

Things change fast at the top of men’s tennis. Djokovic went from absolute dominance at the end of the 2016 French Open to winning only a Masters and an ATP 250 for the next eight months.

But all is not lost. Djokovic was on his way back in London and Doha. He just ran into a player who played the match of his life. It does, however, mean that he needs to show even more urgency now and that he must make every sacrifice to win the French Open.

That would give him the double career slam and set him even further apart from Federer and Nadal. He needs to show the same commitment to winning the French Open that he showed last year.

  • Elsewhere in the Draw

I’ve missed a couple of days now but this post is already long. I’ll just say that the third round match between Federer and Berdych which I looked forward to was a disappointment today with Berdych imploding as he usually does against a top player to lose 6-2, 6-4, 6-4.

But credit to Federer who looked great after such a long break, like he was not away at all. This shouldn’t really surprise me but it does. I didn’t think Federer would reach such a level so fast again, if ever.

He even looks like a threat for the title now, although he is still more of a dark horse. He now plays Nishikori who won’t collapse like Berdych and who won his last two matches in straight sets.

That encounter should give us a much better idea of where Federer’s game is at.

Finally, today I am looking forward to the Nadal vs Zverev match which is unlikely to be as one-sided as the Federer vs Berdych match. The head-to-head is 1-0 in Nadal’s favor after that match in Indian Well last year where Zverev missed a straightforward forehand volley on match point.

Nadal has been looking solid but Zverev is improving fast and this may just be another breakthrough moment for him!

  • Highlights

Who will win?

  • Nadal in 4 (44%, 7 Votes)
  • Zverev in 4 (31%, 5 Votes)
  • Nadal in 5 (13%, 2 Votes)
  • Zverev in 3 (6%, 1 Votes)
  • Zverev in 5 (6%, 1 Votes)
  • Nadal in 3 (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 16

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Posted in Australian Open, Grand Slams.

9 Comments

  1. That Federer is back! peaking a bit too soon? Anyway, Thanks Birdy! Just what the fed needed. A huge confidence boost! hee.. hee… Will be interesting to see how it rides out from here.

    Thanks for the coverage Ru-an. Last year was quite a run in eh? Nole’s shocker adds some element of unpredictability to this year’s AO.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    👍

    [Reply]

  2. I expected Berdych to fold up, so no surprise really. I would have been more surprised if he had won. As for Novak, the swords will be out with plenty to say, so those of us who care will just have to play the waiting game again and hope. Thanks for supporting him Ru-an. Boris had made some comments that ring true, how I wish he was still on the team.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Becker also said that Djokovic needs to sacrifice everything for the next slam. I think he prepared well for the AO but got a bit unlucky with the draw. Boris’s absence is not necessarily the problem. We will see what the deal is in the next few months. How hungry and motivated he is. If he wins the FO he will be on track again.

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    Eren Reply:

    He was playing the world number 117. Nothing unlucky about it. It’s like you said in your post, sometimes some players are just too good. For instance, Tsonga vs Nadal, semi-final 2008 at the AO. Nothing one can do.

    Let’s hope a Fedal GS final will NOT materialise. If it does, we all know that Federer will make retarded and moronic unforced errors to hand the title to Nadal (yes, I am super serious). I’d rather see a Murray vs Nadal final or whatever.

    Anyway, I don’t think Federer will make it to the finals. I don’t want Nadal to win the AO. If he does, he’ll have the double Slam while he is extremely inconsistent on non-clay surfaces for an ATG. It would skew things too much in his favour I think.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Nothing similar about Djokovic vs Istomin and Nadal vs Tsonga. In the one Djokovic had virtual match points losing 7-6(8), 5-7, 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 and in the other Tsonga wiped the floor with Nadal 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 where Nadal didn’t have as much as a sniff of a chance.

    There is always luck involved in a match like the former, no matter how you spin it. There was zero luck involved in the latter.

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    Eren Reply:

    Agreed with that. Tsong did not have luck.If Djokovic would have won that first set tiebreaker, he would have a straight set victory and we wouldn’t be talking about this anyway. It’s just that I feel that Djokovic could not have done much more to win this one.

    “Tsonga wiped the floor with Nadal 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 where Nadal didn’t have as much as a sniff of a chance”

    Hahaha, Nadal was running like a mad rabbit to reach those Tsonga volleys, but time and time again, he (Nadal) was too late. Brilliant match by Tsonga.

    Just to reinforce this, Nadal only had 7 unforced errors after the first two sets lol.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Same here it’s tough to criticize him for this loss. Did you watch Nadal vs Zverev? I felt really bad for Zverev after what happened in the 5th set.

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    Eren Reply:

    No, I did not watch that match. I just read the summary of that match. Seems he had cramp and was done mentally and physically after getting a break back in the fifth. A shame really.

    The scoreline does show that Nadal is definitely not invincible at the moment. But I do not know whether someone on his side of the draw can actually prevent him from reaching the final.

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