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Djokovic, on Australian Open Defeat: It Doesn’t Mean It’s the Beginning of the End

The Serb was disappointed with his performance in Australia, but still believes he has much to give.

By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Friday January 26, 2024

For the first time in his career Novak Djokovic tasted defeat in an Australian Open semifinal, the tournament where he had won all ten of his semifinals (and all ten of his finals) prior to Friday’s night’s clash with 22-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner.

It was bound to happen sometime, but after the 6-1, 6-2, 6-7(6), 6-3 defeat, Djokovic was still reeling from how soundly he was defeated, and how – in his own mind – poorly he had played.

“I was, in a way, shocked with my level, in a bad way,” Djokovic said. “There was not much I was doing right in the first two sets. I guess this is one of the worst Grand Slam matches I’ve ever played. At least that I remember.

“Not a very pleasant feeling playing this way. But at the same time, you know, credit to him for doing everything better than me, you know, in every aspect of the game.

Djokovic was out of sorts in the opening two sets, really just a shell of himself, but he summoned his fighting spirit and managed some brilliant tennis in the third set, saving a match point and winning the set in a dramatic tiebreak. In the fourth, Djokovic was good, but not good enough, and he told reporters in his post-match press conference that his play was inexcusable.

“I tried, I fought,” the 10-time champion said. “I managed to kind of raise the level a little bit in the third, saved a match point, played a good tiebreak. But again, you know, the fourth set, very bad game to lose, 40-Love up at 1-2, and kind of against the wind a little bit.

“Yeah, just overall the performance-wise level of my tennis was, really not great.”

Djokovic wasn’t his usual steamrolling self this year in Australia, but most believed that he’d rise to the occasion and find his most inspired tennis, like he has done time and time again in Melbourne.

Strangely, it just never happened.

“To be honest, you know, the whole tournament I haven’t really played close to my best,” he said. “Match maybe against Mannarino (round of 16) was great, but most of the matches I was not playing up to par, so to say, the way I play here in Australia normally.

“So in a way it did surprise me, because I thought it won’t be that bad in the first two sets. But on the other hand, I didn’t feel really myself on the court during this tournament.”

Djokovic did have praise for Sinner, and admitted that the Italian’s pinpoint serving and ferocious ground game played a significant role in his first Australian Open loss since 2018. “He was very dominant on his service games,” Djokovic said. “Obviously if you serve well and if you don’t face a breakpoint, it plays with the mind of your opponent, meaning you can put more pressure on his service games, my service games in this case, and you kind of swing freely.

“Congrats to him. He just played a flawless match.”

“This is one of the worst Grand Slam matches I’ve ever played!”

Brutal honesty from Novak Djokovic – who sets the highest standard for himself.#AusOpen

— Eurosport (@eurosport) January 26, 2024

Not the Beginning of the End

Now that his tremendous 33-match winning streak in Melbourne is snapped, Djokovic is left to ponder what it will be like to start a season with a low point. So many times winning the title in Australia has put wind in his sails and sparked more milestones to come. This year, he’ll have to pick up the pieces and keep fighting, as his 37th birthday nears in May.

“The streak was going to end,” he said. “It was going to happen, and at least I gave everything I possibly can under circumstances where I didn’t play well, and I lost to a player that has a very good chance to win his first slam.”

As far as his goals for 2024, Djokovic is still bent on returning to the pinnacle at the majors and the Olympics. There are four cornerstone events to come – Roland-Garros, Wimbledon, the Olympics and the US Open – and the 24-time major champion will be hungry to prove that his performance in Melbourne is not the beginning of an inevitable decline.

“I still have high hopes, for other slams, Olympics, and whatever tournaments that I’ll play. It’s just the beginning of the season,” he said. “It’s not the feeling that I’m used to – it kind of has been incredibly satisfying for me to start off most of my seasons with a Grand Slam win and never losung in semis or finals of Australian Open. So this time it’s a bit different, but it is what it is. Let’s see. I don’t know.

“This tournament hasn’t been, as I said, up to my standard or criteria or the level that I would normally play or expect myself to play, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the beginning of the end, as some people like to call it.”

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