Novak Djokovic suffered his earliest loss in years at the Australian Open tumbling out of the event he’s won six times in the second round tonight to the 117th ranked Denis Istomin 7-6(8), 5-7, 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-4.
After saving set points to win the second, it appeared Djokovic would run away with the match over the Uzbek he had beaten handily in all five previous meetings. But an early break in the fifth sealed Djokovic’s fate, sending the Serb home the earliest he has at a Slam since a 2008 Wimbledon second round loss to Marat Safin.
Djokovic dominated the tour culminating with his Career Slam at the French, but since has made the fourth round once in the last three majors.
AFterward, Djokovic, who will now not return to No. 1 until the clay season, met the press.
Q. How did you see the match?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: All the credit to Denis for playing amazing. He deserved to win. No doubt, he was a better player in the clutch moments. He stepped it up, played aggressive. Served very well, very precise. There’s not much I could do.
Of course, I was not pleased with my performance overall. But, you know, I have to congratulate my opponent today.
Q. You seemed to lack intensity. Was there anything at all wrong?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: There was intensity, of course. We played four-and-a-half hours. It’s just that, you know, it’s one of these days when you don’t feel that great on the court, don’t have much rhythm, and the player you’re playing against is feeling the ball very well.
So, you know, that’s sport.
Q. Do you think you lost this match more in the first and fourth set? Because you seemed to have found your way in other sets.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, it seemed like in the third set I felt comfortable. I had a breakpoint opening fourth set. Missed an easy forehand. Yeah, match turned around. Maybe late in the fourth set something could have happened.
But I didn’t really have a clear chance, to be honest. Wherever he needed, he came up with big serve, big play.
All I can say is hats down.
Q. You played him five times before, only lost a set. Did you ever see any of this Denis Istomin before?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Of course, I never underestimate any opponent. Doesn’t matter which tournament I play on or which round. I try to give the best that I can. I have respect for everybody.
Him playing this well, I mean, it’s amazing. He played obviously above his level. You got to give him credit for that. Many things came together for him today. He’s a well-deserved winner.
Q. In the narrative of your development, we thought after Doha maybe you put a slight disappointing second half of the season last year behind. Do you still feel like that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I started the season very well. Again, it’s a tennis match. On a given day, you can lose. I mean, nothing is impossible. There is over a hundred players playing in the main draw. I guess the quality of tennis keeps rising each year. Everybody becomes more professional. I guess they improve. They get better on the court.
What can I do? I did try my best till the last shot, but it didn’t work.
Q. You talked last season a bit about the French Open, what a massive thing that was to you. It kind of affected your mindset. Do you think possibly there’s still a little bit of a hangover from having sort of achieved that massive goal?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don’t know. I mean, it’s not a time now to go so deep into it. I didn’t reflect on that at all at this stage. I started a new season, a new year, as everybody else.
I forgot about it, in a way. It’s not affecting me, if you were referring to that.
Q. You’ve fought yourself out of very difficult situations in a lot of matches over the last few years. Were you surprised that you weren’t able to do that today?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I was believing and hoping I could do it, but it wasn’t that day. That’s all I can say. Not much to add.
Q. Is it more physical or more mental, even though it’s always a mixture between the two? Which side would you choose?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don’t think it was physical. We both looked okay. After four-and-a-half hours, we didn’t seem to be tired. Of course, four-and-a-half hours is not easy on the body. But still, I don’t think that has affected neither me or my opponent. It was just in the game of tennis, you know, one guy beats the other guy. That’s all I can say.
Q. More mental at the end?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: You make your conclusions (smiling).
Q. What do you take from that match? What do you learn from it?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Take my bags and I go home.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Lessons are always learned every single day, not just when you lose.
Q. When you lost against Sam in Wimbledon, you said it was a shock for you. How does this one feel?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I mean, it’s definitely not something you’re looking for, not something you’re wishing for. But, again, I have to deal with it. It is the way it is.
Q. It’s obviously very soon after the event, but we won’t get another chance to ask you. At the moment, what is your schedule?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I understand your position, but you have to understand my position. I really don’t know. I mean, at the moment I just want to go home, spend time with my family, and that’s all.
Q. Are you slightly more accepting of this, more philosophical about it than you might have been a year ago?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I didn’t understand your question.
Q. Is defeat hurting as much as it normally ever would?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Look, you know, are you referring to the second-round loss?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I mean, of course. I’m not used to losing in Australian Open second round. I’ve always played so well. Throughout last 10 years, I’ve won six titles here. This court has been so nice to me. I enjoyed it very much.
Of course, it’s disappointing. But the end of the day I have to accept it.
Q. Coming back to win the second and third set, where did the match turn around?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I feel like the first couple games of fourth set, that’s where it turned around. That’s where I had to use my chances, step it up.
I didn’t. He started playing better from that point on. He just started swinging through and getting more confidence. Then it was really a gamble.
Q. I kept waiting for you to sort of show your emotions, get pumped up or something. It didn’t really happen. Was there a reason for that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, no, not any particular reason. I was just trying to be in the moment, focus on the next point. That’s all.
Q. Do you think in the past half year, opponents have started to believe more that they can beat you in matches like that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Sure. I mean, look, they wouldn’t be playing against me or any other opponent or any other tournament, for that matter, if they don’t believe that they can win. They go out and they try their best.
Today Denis, surely he was an underdog, but he didn’t show any nerves in the big moments. I think his experience in playing long time — surely he didn’t play that many big matches, but just everything came together. It was the right moment for him, the right day. He was better.
Q. Do you think more than maybe a year ago?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: (No response.)
Q. I want to congratulate the way you answered these questions. You’ve been very nice.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Grazie mille.
Q. How disappointing is it not to take your seventh title here?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I’ve not had this opportunity.
Q. Will you take it next year?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Let’s see.
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