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Wild card Istomin stuns Djokovic

Defending champion Novak Djokovic was sensationally knocked out in the second round of the Australian Open by unheralded Uzbek Denis Istomin in a major shock on January 19.

Wild card Istomin stuns Djokovic
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Denis Istomin celebrates after beating Novak Djokovic

Melbourne

The 117th-ranked Istomin ousted the six-time winner 7-6 (8), 5-7, 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 in 4hr 48min on Rod Laver Arena. It was the world number two’s earliest Grand Slam exit since Wimbledon 2008, when he was beaten by Marat Safin in the second round. It was also only Djokovic’s second loss to a player outside the top 100 in seven years, after his defeat to 145thranked Juan Martin del Potro at last year’s Rio Olympics. 

“He played obviously above his level. You got to give him credit for that,” Djokovic said. “Many things came together for him today. He’s a well-deserved winner. “He deserved to win. No doubt, he was a better player in the clutch moments. There’s not much I could do.” Istomin, who got into the main draw as the winner of the Asia wildcard play-off in December, said it was the high point of his playing career. “It is the biggest win for me, and it means so much,” Istomin said, struggling with the emotions of his achievement. So now I can feel that I can play with these guys and to be with them on the same level.” 

He added: “I feel sorry for Novak. I was playing so good today. I mean, I also surprised myself today.” Serbia’s Djokovic was bidding to win a record seventh Australian Open title and overtake Australian Roy Emerson, who won six in the 1960s. It was a miserable start to the Grand Slam season for Djokovic, who surrendered his top world ranking to Andy Murray last year and fell to second in the world for the first time since June 2014. 

Istomin played at an extraordinary level from the opening game, which took 16 minutes – signalling the impending struggle for Djokovic. Last year Djokovic survived an epic four-and-a-half hour five-setter against Frenchman Gilles Simon in the Australian Open fourth round, but this time there was no escape. Istomin broke the defending champion’s serve in the seventh game before Djokovic broke back in the following game as the marathon first set went to a tiebreaker. 

Djokovic had two set points but it was Istomin who grabbed the set 10-8, ending an 85-minute struggle. The 12-time Grand Slam champion had more early problems when he clutched his left hamstring after stretching for a volley in the third game of the second set, and called for the trainer at the next changeover. Istomin will now meet Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta in the third round.

Paes, Sharan-Raja bow out of doubles

It was a bad day for the Indians at the Australian Open with Leander Paes and the rising team of Purav Raja and Divij Sharan making first round exits from the men’s doubles event here on Thursday. Paes and his Brazilian partner Andre Sa had a one-set advantage but lost 6-4 6-7(3) 4-6 to 10th seeded pair of Treat Huey and Max Mirnyi. It was the same team that Paes and Andre had beaten in the Auckland Classic opener. In another first round match, Raja and Sharan, who ended runners-up at season-opener Chennai Open, fought their hearts out before suffering a narrow 6-7(9) 6-7(4) defeat against the French team of Jonathan Eysseric and Fabrice Martin. Rohan Bopanna is now the only Indian left in the men’s doubles.

Nadal smashes past Baghdatis

Rafael Nadal stormed into the third round of the Australian Open on Thursday with a 6-3 6-1 6-3 demolition of former finalist Marcos Baghdatis. The 14-times grand slam champion has had two lean years at the majors but showed enough of the old passion and firepower in the two hour 13-minute clinic at Rod Laver Arena to suggest he may yet go deep in the second week at Melbourne Park. Cypriot Baghdatis, who had a fairytale run to reach the final in 2006, saved two match points but Nadal closed out the match in style with a forehand cross-court winner to raise a huge roar from the terraces.

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