Melbourne, Jan 26 (IANS) The 10-time champion in Melbourne, Novak Djokovic has termed the Australian Open 2024 semifinal defeat by the Italian Jannik Sinner as “one of the worst Grand Slam matches I’ve ever played”.
Sinner, at 22 years the youngest man to reach a final at Melbourne Park since 2008, registered a stunning 6-1, 6-2, 6-7(6), 6-3 triumph at the Rod Laver Arena, ending Djokovic’s 33-match winning streak in Melbourne and handing him his first Australian Open defeat since 2018.
Djokovic found himself overpowered and outplayed by the young contender. The Serbian maestro, known for his dominance on the court, was visibly frustrated as he struggled to find his rhythm, committing an uncharacteristic 54 unforced errors.
In a post-match press conference, Djokovic, critiquing his own performance with brutal honesty, said, “I was shocked with my level in a bad way”.
Acknowledging the stark contrast between his usual brilliance and the lacklustre display on that fateful day, he admitted, “There was not much I was doing right in the first two sets. This is one of the worst Grand Slam matches I’ve ever played; at least that I remember. [It’s] not a very pleasant feeling playing this way. Credit to him for doing everything better than me in every aspect of the game. I tried, I fought. I managed to raise the level a little bit in the third, saved a match point, and played a good tie-break.
“But (in) the fourth set, (it was a) very bad game to lose, 40-0 up on 1-2, against the wind a little bit. The performance-wise level of my tennis was really not great,” said Djokovic.
Djokovic had dropped three sets en route to the last-four stage at Melbourne Park, but his dominance had shown in all the matches he had played before his encounter with Sinner.
The Italian raced into a two-set lead, and the top seed’s third-set revival would prove only temporary.
“The whole tournament I haven’t really played close to my best,” Djokovic admitted. “Maybe against (Adrian) Mannarino, I was great, but most of the matches I was not playing up to par [compared to] the way I play here in Australia normally.
“It did surprise me because I thought it wouldn’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. One can say the semi-finals is a great result, of course, but I always expect the highest of myself, and it wasn’t meant to be today.
“There’s a lot of negative things that I’ve done on the court today in terms of my game that I’m not really pleased with; return, movement, forehand, backhand. Everything was just subpar,” said the tennis legend from Serbia.
Despite the bitter defeat, Djokovic swiftly dispelled any notions of age catching up with him. At 36, he remained resolute, expressing high hopes for future tournaments, including the Grand Slams and the Olympics.
“I still have high hopes for other Slams (and the) Olympics, and whatever tournaments that I’ll play. It’s not the feeling that I’m used to,” he confessed, reflecting on the deviation from his customary standards.
“This tournament hasn’t been up to the standard that I would normally play or expect myself to play, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the beginning of the end. Let’s see what happens in the rest of the season,” he said.