All good things must end, it seems. For 36-year-old Novak Djokovic, who is still the world’s No. 1 ranked player, there were more endings than he would have liked in the Australian Open semifinals, as he was beaten soundly by rising Italian star Jannik Sinner who, at 22 years old, will the youngest player to reach the finals of the tournament in Djokovic himself in 2008.
Sinner dominated the first two sets, 6-1, 6-2, before Djokovic fought back with a 6-7 (6) win in the third. But about an hour later, Sinner finished off a 6-3 fourth set that will propel him into Sunday’s final.
After the loss, Djokovic commended Sinner’s precise performance and said he was surprised by his own performance in a tournament he has won 10 times, including four of the last five years.
“He outplayed me completely today,” Djokovic said. “Look, I was in a way, shocked with my level. In a bad way. Not much I was doing right in the first two sets. Yeah, I think this is one of the worst Grand Slam matches I have ever played. At least that I remember. Not a very pleasant feeling playing this way. At the same time, credit to him for doing everything better than me in every aspect of the game.”
Novak Djokovic Australian Open Dominance Ends
The loss was especially surprising considering how dominant Djokovic has been in Melbourne. He had been on a 33-match winning streak at the tournament, and had opened this year’s showing with slow starts in the opening two rounds before he seemed to hone in as he played better competition. He beat Tomas Martin Etcheverry (No. 30) and Adrian Mannarino (No. 20) in straight sets in the third and fourth round.
He knocked off American Taylor Fritz (No. 12) in the quarterfinals. Sinner, who has been surging since losing to Djokovic at Wimbledon last year, proved too much. Djokovic did not record any break points against Sinner in the match.
Even with some of his successful results, Djokovic said he had not been feeling himself.
“To be honest, the whole tournament, I haven’t played really close to my best,” he said. “Some matches, but most matches I was not playing up to par, so to say, the way I play here in Australia normally. In a way it did surprise me because I thought it would not be that bad in the first two sets. On the other hand, I didn’t feel really myself on the court during this tournament. One can say semifinals is a great result of course. But I always expect the highest of myself and it wasn’t meant to be today.”
‘The Streak Was Going to End One Day’
Djokovic said it was too soon after the loss to be able to have enough perspective on just how dominant he has been at the Australian Open in past tournaments. He had never lost a semifinal or a final at Rod Laver Arena.
“The streak was going to end one day,” he said. “It happened. At least I gave everything I can under circumstances where I did not play well and I lost to a player who has a very good chance to win his first Slam. That’s all it is. But this has been a very special city, best by far Grand Slam of my career. I just hope I get a chance to come back and play at least another time and go through the emotions once more.”
He was not prepared to say that, at age 36 and with Roger Federer retired and Rafael Nadal heading that way, the younger generation was surpassing him.
“Let’s see. We don’t know,” he said. “I still have high hopes for other Slams. It’s just the beginning of the season. It’s not a feeling that I am used to.”
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