Story highlights

Djokovic loses 7-6 5-7 2-6 7-6 6-4

Istomin is ranked 117th

Serb lost to a player outside the top 100 for second time since 2010

Draw opens up for Andy Murray

Melbourne CNN  — 

The draw gods at the Australian Open had us all fooled.

There was us thinking Novak Djokovic’s opening match against Fernando Verdasco would be tricky.

Instead, it was the second-round match that produced the upset – and one of the biggest in tournament history – when the bespectacled Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan ended the reign of Djokovic Down Under with a 7-6 (10-8) 5-7 2-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 win in a shade under five hours.

Just how massive a shock was it?

Consider that the 30-year-old Istomin, the world No. 117 and a wildcard, became only the second player outside the top 100 to defeat Djokovic in the last seven years. He so nearly lost in December’s wildcard playoff, saving four match points in the semifinals.

The other conqueror wasn’t a journeyman but rather Juan Martin del Potro, who upended Djokovic at the Rio Olympics in August. Del Potro’s ranking only dithered because of repeated wrist issues.

Istomin’s record against top-10 opposition entering the clash was a dismal won one, lost 32, and Rod Laver Arena is Djokovic’s second home.

Half of his 12 grand slam titles have been clinched on Melbourne’s centre court.


Djokovic hadn’t lost this early at a major since falling in the second round at Wimbledon in 2008, a time when Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were still at the top of the men’s game.

“I’m as astounded as anyone else,” former coach Boris Becker told CNN. “Novak was a bit too defensive, he never took the initiative and stayed too far behind the baseline.

“He looked good in Doha (two weeks ago), so I think he’s done his homework, but obviously for him losing in the second round of the Australian Open is a big shock and has probably changed his year.”

As dominant as Djokovic was from 2015 to the middle of 2016 – bagging five grand slam titles including four in a row – he has now suffered unexpected reverses in two of his three previous grand slams.

Will he ever regain his purple patch or is this the start of a prolonged slump at majors for Djokovic, who ended the partnership with Becker in the off-season after admitting that “private” issues previously affected his play?

“He has the talent and greatness but something that was there last year is missing, so he’s got to sacrifice everything else for his next major, I think that’s what he has to do,” said Becker.

Andy Murray took advantage of his pal’s slide to overtake Djokovic as the world No. 1 and will now be expected to end his title drought at the Australian Open given the departure of his main rival. Murray has fallen in five Australian Open finals, with Djokovic his tormentor on four occasions.

“I’m not used to losing in the Australian Open second round,” said Djokovic, the two-time defending champion. “I’ve always played so well. This court has been so nice to me.

“Of course it’s disappointing but I have to accept it.”