In a complete and utter absolute stunner, No. 117th ranked Denis Istomin ousted No. 2 seed and six time Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic in five sets, 7-6(8) 5-7 2-6 7-6(5) 6-4 in a match that lasted 4 hours and 48 minutes.
The 30 year-old from Uzbekistan played the match of his life and finally broke through against Djokovic, who never beat the Serbian in the five times they played and only won one set.
But today was different for Djokovic, who never dropped a set the first week in Australia in the last seven years and only lost once to a player ranked outside the top 100 in the last seven years, falling to No.145 Juan Martin del Potro at last year’s Olympics.
But del Porto is a former Grand Slam champion, while Istomin has been a journeyman for most of his career.
“I never underestimate any opponent,” Djokovic said. “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.”
We shall see how Djokovic bounces back from this, but after seeing both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal take steps back last year, the former No. 1 could be ripe for one this year.
Remember, the Australian Open is his tournament, much like the way Nadal dominates Roland Garros and Federer used to dominate everywhere. The slower hardcourts are made for his return game and it is where Djokovic made his bones.
But it won’t be Djokovic this year. It very well could be No. 1 seed Andy Murray, but it could come from the field, as there will be the most formidable player is now out. It’s something that will develop over the next week and a half.
Going forward, Djokovic may be viewed differently. He lost early to Sam Querrey at Wimbledon last year and now this. It’s something the all-time great just isn’t used to.
And now opponents have the confidence to win against the Serb
“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,” he said. “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.”
That’s what you have to wonder. Against Querrey last year, well that’s fine. He was ranked. But now he lost early in two of three slams.
We’ll see how he does going into the spring and if he rebounds in Paris and Wimbledon.
Right now, though, this is a complete and utter shock.