The 36-year-old Serbian tennis star was gunning for his 11th Grand Slam singles title Down Under and to extend his 33-match winning streak there.
That all came crashing down Friday morning when Djokovic lost to Italy’s Jannik Sinner in the semifinals 6-1, 6-2, 6-7, 6-3. While the upset was not predictable, however, it was suspected.
The reason is that Djokovic’s level at the Australian Open this year is not even close to what we have seen in recent years. His level even shocked him.
“This is one of the worst Grand Slam matches I’ve ever played,” Djokovic said after his loss.
However, this poor level has been consistent throughout the two weeks, besides his one-sided win over Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in the fourth round where he only dropped three games.
“To be honest, the whole tournament I haven’t really played close to my best. Match maybe against Mannarino 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 … I didn’t feel really myself on the court during this tournament.”
Djokovic, who contributed an uncharacteristic 54 unforced errors in the match, lost three sets en route to the semifinals. In comparison, he lost only one set in the entire 2023 Australian Open.
What does Novak Djokovic’s loss to Jannik Sinner mean?
It’s back to the drawing board for Djokovic.
It was clear that not only was Sinner moving much better than Djokovic around the court but he was also serving more precisely and overall had a better demeanor.
With this next-generation wave of elite athletes in 22-year-old Sinner, Carlos Alcaraz and Alex de Minaur, Djokovic has to get back on a consistent rhythm — especially if he wants to win more Grand Slams.
Djokovic can now set his sights on the French Open in May.
What does Novak Djokovic’s loss mean for Roland Garros?
If there is one thing we have learned about Djokovic is that he is relentless and will not let a loss build bad momentum. While this is true, clay court specialist Rafael Nadal is hoping to be back in action, granted he is healthy, which can halt Djokovic from winning yet another Grand Slam.
“Let’s see how the players play in the next several months, particularly on the clay, in the clay season,” Djokovic said. “It’s completely different surface, conditions. Some players are probably more favorites than others on clay just because it’s kind of a surface that suits certain type of tennis players.”
Djokovic has claimed three French Open singles titles in his career — the least of all the Slams — with the last one being in 2023.
Novak Djokovic talks about his motivation heading into the U.S. Open.
Did Novak Djokovic lose due to his age?
Djokovic is 36 years old and while tennis fans are questioning how much longer he can hang at the top of the sport, it hasn’t been an issue for the Serb.
However, Djokovic, who has been ranked world No. 1 in 13 different years, has said in the past that the next generation of stars is exactly what keeps him motivated.
“I love competition,” the tennis said in 2023. “I think the more you find yourself in particular circumstances where you’re experiencing adversity on the court, where things are not maybe moving the right way for you in terms of the performance of that day, in terms of tennis, or mentally you’re not feeling your best, that’s normally the best possible opportunity for you to grow mentally from that, to learn something. Normally in the face of adversity is where you learn the most.”
Djokovic was referring to the match he defeated Alcaraz in a grueling three setter to capture Cincinnati in 2023.
“Those are kind of the moments in matches that I still push myself on a daily basis for day in and day out, practice, sacrifice, commitment,” he said after the match.
But how has that feeling changed since losing in his first Australian Open semis? Not much it seems.
“I still have high hopes for other slams, Olympics, and whatever tournaments that I’ll play,” Djokovic said on Friday. “It’s just the beginning of the season.”
Who does Jannik Sinner play in the Australian Open final?
Sinner will face Russia’s Daniil Medvedev on Sunday, Jan. 28 for the title.