Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin celebrates his win against Serbia’s Novak Djokovic during their men’s singles second round match on day four of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 19, 2017. SAEED KHAN / AFP
Second seed, Novak Djokovic, is out of the on-going Australian Open Tennis Championship following a stunning upset victory by Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan (ranked 119 in the world), who won by 7/6; 5/7; 3/6; 7/6; 6/4 at the Rod Laver Arena.
It was match of hard serving in which Djokovic delivered 14 aces to Istomin’s 17; but the world number two faulted three times more than his opponent’s 3.
Istomin made 69 per cent of his first serves and won 72 per cent of the points played after such serves. Djokovic won slightly more points on his second serve. With his success in serving, Istomin forayed to the net where he earned points at a high figure of 74 percent.
With such a formidable arsenal, the bespectacled Istomin won the close first set tie-breaker by 10 points to eight. He almost took the second set but Djokovic’s defense prevented it when the Serbian won seven games to five.
With the attendant confidence, Djokovic raced through the third set 6/2. The Uzbekistani regained his aggression in the fourth set and held his serve, as did Djokovic for a game tally of six–all. The set was decided with a tie-break, which Istomin won (again) by the close count of seven points to five.
Djokovic opened serving in the fifth set decider and held without dropping a point. Istomin also raced to a 40-0 lead but was forced to deuce on a long rally.
However, his big serve earned him advantage and he leveled one game apiece. At two-all Istomin broke Djokovic’s serve and held his own to consolidate for a 4-2 lead. The next three games passed quickly, with short rallies. Leading 5-4, the lanky Istomin stepped up to serve for the match. He hammered a 178 km/h to take first point, then another ripper for 30-0 but a second serve cost him the third point. At 30-15, he delivered another hard serve (185) and had two match points. Then, with another service winner, Istomin clinched the game set and match that lasted four hours and 48 minutes.
Who is Denis Istomin? The 28-year old resident of Tashkent turned professional in 2004. Prior to his moment in the sun (in this second round match against Novak Djokovic), he had competed in 10 Australian Opens, with a career record of 209 wins and 194 losses. In contrast, Djokovic came into the match with an outstanding career record of 756 wins and 155 losses.
It was the earliest exit of the Serbian in a Grand Slam event since his first round loss in his Australian Open debut in 2005 and his third round loss to American Sam Querrey at Wimbledon last year. He has been the most successful player at this tournament; winning his first in 2008, followed five times, in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, and 2016.
In another interesting game, Dominic Thiem of Austria (the eighth seed) prevailed over home town favourite, John Thompson, over two hour and 24 minutes of power, accuracy and footwork by Thiem. The Australian rallied to take the close third set tie breaker having denied the Austrian. At the end of the 6/2; 6/1; 6/7; 6/4 display of great tennis, when asked about not having Djokovic in his segment of the draw, especially as for the quarter-finals, he gave a mature response,: “I am thinking only of the next round. I hope people (here) like me and like my game.”
Hometown favourite factor notwithstanding, the sporty Aussies always support a great athlete, mate!