Six-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic crashes out of the 2017 Australian Open after a second round defeat to Denis Istomin.
After four hours and 48 minutes on the Rod Laver Arena, the World No 117 battled to win in five sets against Djokovic 7-6 (10-8) 5-7 2-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 – one of the biggest upsets in the competition’s 112-year history.
The world No 2 – who was the red-hot favourite to claim his seventh Australian Open title after overpowering Andy Murray in Doha two weeks prior, hit 72 unforced errors during his second round loss.
Djokovic, despite his under-par showing, remained respectful of Istomin’s remarkable performance.
“All the credit to Denis for playing amazing, and he deserved to win,” he said.
“No doubt he was a better player in the clutch moments, he stepped it up and played aggressive, served very well, very precise.
“There was not much I could do, of course I was not pleased with my performance overall but I have to congratulate my opponent today.”
The 30-year-old Uzbek reached the third round in 2010 and 2014 – where he lost to Djokovic in straight sets. In five previous meetings stretching back to 2010, the Serb won all 13 sets contested.
Istomin progresses to round three, he faces Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta on Saturday January 21 – the world No 31 beat Britain’s Kyle Edmund in straight sets earlier in the day.
Djokovic admitted he wasn’t given any clear opportunities during the five-set marathon to break away from the world No 117.
“I didn’t really have a clear chance,” the 12-time Grand Slam champion said. “Whenever he needed it, he came up with a big serve and big play.
“In the game of tennis, one guy beats the other guy, that’s all I can say.”
“I’m not used to losing in the Australian Open second round, I’ve always played so well. Throughout the last ten years, I’ve won six titles here, and this court has been so nice to me.
Djokovic added: “He didn’t show any nerves during the big moments. I think experience and playing a long time, surely he didn’t play that many big matches, but everything came together. It was the right moment for him, the right day, and he was better.”