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Novak's reality check: “There was not much I was doing right”

  • Dan Imhoff

It took an extraordinary effort to finally end a string of Novak Djokovic’s extraordinary streaks in one fell swoop.

On a balmy Friday afternoon at Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne Park’s most dominant champion was humbled and left to process an earlier-than-expected departure.

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The 36-year-old has known defeat on this court before but never this deep into an Australian Open campaign and not at any stage since Hyeon Chung prevailed in the fourth round at AO 2018, 2195 days ago.

Jannik Sinner, who admitted he sought to build his game based on the most prolific major champion’s, became the first player to beat the Serbian in an Australian Open semifinal or final. 

Djokovic had won all 20 matches at the event’s last two hurdles before that. 

“After the match it's very difficult to reflect on things in a more profound way. Maybe tomorrow, maybe in a few days' time, but I definitely have a lot to be very proud of, in terms of what I have achieved here,” Djokovic said.

“The streak was going to end, you know, one day. It was going to happen, and, you know, 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. That's all it is.



“This has been a very special city, best by far Grand Slam of my career. Yeah, I just hope that I'll get a chance to come back to play at least another time and go through the emotions once more.

The top seed had reached the final in nine of his past 10 majors but had spent almost four hours more than Sinner on court to reach the semifinals.

He conceded he never really found his groove throughout AO 2024 after he bowed to the 22-year-old Italian for the third time in nine weeks.

It was only the second match of his Grand Slam career that Djokovic failed to bring up a break point. The other match, against Tomas Berdych in the Wimbledon quarterfinals seven years ago, he did not complete, retiring in the second set.

“He's deservedly in the finals. He outplayed me completely today,” Djokovic said. “Look, I was, in a way, shocked with my level, you know, in a bad way. 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," he added. "But at the same time, you know, credit to him for doing everything better than me in every aspect of the game.”

A 33-match unbeaten run at Melbourne Park ends with Djokovic tied with Monica Seles for the longest in the Open era and for the first time in 19 years, the Australian Open final will not feature one of the Big Three.

Man of the moment Sinner had high praise for the trio but was not about to hang his hat on the biggest result of his career just yet. 

A disconsolate Novak Djokovic during his semifinal against Jannik Sinner

“I always try to learn from them and then trying to get something from them, no? This has been always my part of the process, and the process we are making is not finished yet, because I feel like we still have to improve a lot,” Sinner said.

“Happy to be here, happy to play my first final here in Melbourne, but in my mind I know that I can and still have to improve. So, it's good to have him [Djokovic] around.”

Whether the defeat was a precursor to the season ahead or a mere blip in another extraordinary year ahead remains to be seen.

Djokovic’s dream of a Golden Grand Slam appears over, but it is premature to pre-empt the end.

“I still have high hopes, you know, 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. I mean, it kind of has been incredibly satisfying for me, you know, to start off most of my seasons with a Grand Slam win and never lost in semis or finals of Australian Open.

“So, this time it's a bit different, but it is what it is," he added. "Let's see. I don't know. This tournament hasn't been up to my standard or criteria or the level that I would normally play or expect myself to play but doesn't necessarily mean that it's beginning of the end, as some people like to call it.

“Yeah, let's see what happens in the rest of the season.”