Melbourne | Sinner drops Djokovic

No one really expected it but then it wasn’t a surprise to see Novak Djokovic toppled at the semi-final stage of the Australian Open by Jannik Sinner, the Italian youngster who seems to have gat the evil eye on The Serbian world No.1 having now beaten him these last fdew months, three times in four meetings.

It feels amazing. It was a tough match; I knew that already entering the court Jannik Sinner

Melbourne has been Djokovic’s home, despite the unsavoury incident of his deportation in 2022 for refusing to be vaccinated against Covid And he was favourite to collect his 11th AO title, Certainly, no one was really betting against him!

What was surprising was the coolness with which Sinner executed his game plan He showed no signs of nerves as he became the first Italian to reach the final of the Australian Open, and a major personal improvement on his previous best results at grand slam level, namely the Wimbledon semis and the last eight at the French and US Opens as well as Melbourne.

On Friday he produced what many believe is the best performance of his career to score a 6-1 6-2 6-7(6) 6-3 victory which left the packed Rod Laver Arena stunned after watching their 10-time champion fall over three-hours, 22-minutes, as Sinner reached his maiden grand slam final.

The 22-year-old from northern Italy, came out with a positive attitude and implemented it from the first point to dominate his 36-year-old opponent by immediately capturing his serve which must have stung the 24-time grand slam champion!

Sinner then raced through the first set closing it out in just 35-minutes for the loss of a solitary game which didn’t augur well for the champion who was expected to regroup when the match resumed in the second.

Jannik Sinner celebrates an historic victory

(Photo by Andy Cheung/Getty Images)

Not so. Sinner maintained the pressure and again ran off with the second, this time conceding two games, breaking Djokovic twice in fairly quick succession.

He defending champion was not being allowed to play his game and his own performance was certainly looking despondent, reflected by the 30 unforced errors he had made during the opening sets.

But if Sinner thought the final was just a set away, he was in for a rude awakening for while his opponent might look ‘beaten’, he was not going to give up without a fight and that started in the third.

He managed to hold serve in his opening service game and urged on by his fans, the fight-back began but Sinner remained focused and held his ground, and, with neither of them conceding their serve, the set slipped into the tiebreak after a spectator required medical attention, thus causing a brief delay.

In the breaker, Djokovic grabbed the initiative, saved a match point and forced the match into a fourth.

Many now believed that Sinners’ challenge would evaporate which proved a mistake for the young Italian roared back to snatch another Djokovic service game and sweep into a 3-1 lead thereby making light of the missed opportunity in the third which would have seen him claim the match in three.

The realisation that the match was slipping away from him must have become evident for the defending champion as he continued to struggle to find an answer to the onslaught from the other side of the net.

Sinner had been positive all match. He was ruthless on his returns and clinical off the baseline and relentless on serve.

Novak Djokovic shakes hands with his victor

Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

He had stepped up a notch as he readily admitted when interviewed after the match.

“The serve has improved a lot. I have the feeling that I can still improve a lot. I have a great team behind me and we’ll keep pushing.,” he said.

“It feels amazing. It was a tough match; I knew that already entering the court.

“I felt like I was hitting the ball great in the first two sets, and he was missing a lot. In the third set, the level was even; I had match point. But that’s tennis, trying to reset as soon as possible and I felt like I served great today, and returning really well. The outcome makes me really happy.”

Closing it out wasn’t easy.

“It was really shaky,” he admitted. “I wanted to play inside in, and then I played inside out. This happens. My legs [got heavy]. The first game of the fourth set was really important. I played really well, and tried to keep pushing.

“I feel like Grand Slams are different mentally. This was a great test for me physically and I dug deep. The fourth set was really tough to go 4-1 up, knowing that was my last with the used balls. From 4-2, it was easier to serve with the new balls, but still, I’m really happy.

“I felt like it was a privilege to play against him last year, so many times in 10 days, and playing matches against these kinds of players is much better than only practice, and that’s really important.”

Sinner can now relax as he awaits news of who he will be facing in the final, Daniil Medvedev or Alexander Zverev who followed him on court in the second semi-final but believes the final will be great match, whoever he has to face!

Novak Djokovic speaks to the media after the match

(Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)

Meanwhile a stunned Djokovic described his loss as “one of the worst Grand Slam matches I’ve ever played” but did admit he was “shocked with his level” which was reflected by the stats: 54 unforced errors and surprisingly, no break point opportunities.

To give him his due he was highly critical of his performance during his post- match press conference.
“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.”

During his previous matches he had shown some early frailty but had always been able to regroup and reinforce his cloak of invincibility which Sinner then punctured.

“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 sub par.”

Despite the disappointment, Djokovic was quick to quash speculation that he was starting to feel his 36 years of age.

“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. It has been incredibly satisfying for me, you know, to start off most of my seasons with a Grand Slam win and never lose in the semi-finals or the final of the Australian Open.

“This time it’s a bit different, but it is what it is. This tournament hasn’t been up to my 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, as some people like to call it.

“Let’s see what happens in the rest of the season.”

And so fans can be certain of one thing. He will ne back but for the moment, the Norman Brooks Trophy a new name will be inscribed on it.



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