One of the most dominating streaks in individual sport over the last decade – that of Novak Djokovic’s hold over tennis’s first Grand Slam of the year at Melbourne – ended today. If there were ever a sign that the former World No. 1 and defending Champion was actually going through a prolonged dip in form and confidence, the match on Thursday night was vehement proof. Two weeks after defeating current World No. 1 Andy Murray at Doha in the final, Djokovic fell to World No. 107 Denis Istomin, an Uzbekistan journeyman who will best be remembered for leading his country’s charge against India in the Davis Cup a few years ago.
The second round match lasted five sets, with Istomin taking the final set 6-4, playing the match of his life. This night truly felt like the beginning of the end for Djokovic; it wasn’t the second half of 2016, but an early loss in his favorite Grand Slam, the Australian Open, in which he is otherwise virtually unbeatable.
This was easily the biggest upset of the fortnight already, even though Nick Kyrgios and Marin Cilic bounced out in the second round.
Despite the Serb’s questionable form, nobody – not even his harshest of critics – expected him to lose so early in this tournament. The signs were good, and with his performance at Qatar, he had convinced many that the last six months were a blip. But now the jury is out on whether the Nole era has ended altogether, given that he had reached seven of the last eight Grand Slam finals. The last time he failed to reach the final was in Wimbledon 2016 last year (third round), and back in the 2014 US Open, when he lost to Kei Nishikori in the semis. This of course opens up the draw for Andy Murray, who has never won the Australian Open before, and has lost four finals. If he reaches the final this year, the odds will be on him winning it, given that he isn’t in the kind of form where he loses to anybody outside the top 5.
Here are some numbers to chew on:
6 – number of Australian Open titles won by Djokovic, the highest in the open era. Roger Federer has won four.
11 – number of years it has been since Novak Djokovic lost before the fourth round at Melbourne (back in 2006, as a teenager).
89 – win percentage at this Slam, his highest out of all four Slams, with only seven losses since his debut in 2005.
58 – number of wins at the Australian Open, the second highest in the Open era behind Roger Federer’s 80.
9 – number of years since he won his first Grand Slam, back here in 2007 when he defeated Federer in the semis and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga in the finals.
5 – number of times he has won the tournament in the last seven years.
2 – number of titles Djokovic has won in his last nine tournaments (since Wimbledon 2016). In the first half of 2016, he won six out of eight.
1 – number of ATP titles won by Denis Istomin (2015 Nottingham).
0 – number of times Istomin has gone past the third round in the Australian Open.
0 – number of ATP matches Istomin won in all of 2016, losing in the first round of every tournament entered. Djokovic won 65 matches in 2016, with only nine losses – seven of which came after the French Open.