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Wildcard upsets Djokovic in five sets

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 19/01/2017 Luke Costin

Six-time champion Novak Djokovic has suffered his earliest grand slam loss in nine years, with unheralded Uzbek wildcard Denis Istomin causing a second-round boilover at Melbourne Park.

The world No.117, who had never beaten a top-10 player at a major, aggressively went after the second seed immediately, before sealing the 7-6 (10-8) 5-7 2-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 victory on Thursday in four hours and 48 minutes.

It was the first time that 12-time grand slam champion Djokovic had failed to make the third round of a major since Wimbledon in 2008.

"All the credit to Denis for playing amazing - he deserved to win," said Djokovic.

"No doubt, he was a better player in the clutch moments.

"He stepped it up and played aggressive.

"He served very well, very precise. There's not much I could do.

"Of course, I was not pleased with my performance overall. But I have to congratulate my opponent today."

Since becoming only the eighth man to complete a career grand slam by winning the French Open last year, Djokovic lost in the Wimbledon third round to Sam Querrey, the US Open final to Stan Wawrinka and the unthinkable defeat to Istomin at Melbourne Park.

"There was intensity, of course - we played four-and-a-half hours," said Djokovic.

"It's just one of these days when you don't feel that great on the court, don't have much rhythm and the player you're playing against is feeling the ball very well."

Istomin, who warmed up for the Australian Open at the $70,000 Bangkok Challenger, was on the attack from the outset.

Cramp set in during the third set but the Uzbek, who won entry to the tournament through the Asia-Pacific wildcard playoff, responded in the fourth.

At 2-2 in the fifth, Istomin - metres behind the baseline - lashed a crosscourt backhand past Djokovic.

It set up what turned out to be the only break of the deciding set.

"I feel sorry for Novak, (but) I played really good," the 30-year-old Istomin said.

"I surprised myself."

Istomin had only claimed one set in five previous matches against Djokovic.

"I never underestimate any opponent," said the Serb.

"It doesn't matter which tournament I play in or which round.

"I try to give the best that I can. I have respect for everybody.

"Him playing this well, it's amazing.

"He played obviously above his level. You've got to give him credit for that."

Istomin next faces 30th seed Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain.

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