Novak Djokovic: Australian Open defeat by Jannik Sinner ‘one of my worst’ at Slam

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic says the rare Australian Open defeat inflicted by semi-final opponent Jannik Sinner was “one of the worst” Grand Slam displays of his illustrious career.

Novak Djokovic says the rare Australian Open defeat inflicted by semi-final opponent Jannik Sinner was “one of the worst” Grand Slam displays of his illustrious career.

Serbia’s Djokovic lost in Melbourne for the first time since 2018 as Sinner ended his 33-match winning streak.

The 24-time Grand Slam champion was aiming to move clear of Margaret Court in terms of all-time major triumphs.

“It is not a very pleasant feeling playing this way,” said Djokovic, 36.

“But at the same time, credit to [Sinner] for doing everything better than me in every aspect of the game.”

Djokovic, who will remain as the men’s world number one despite the four-set defeat, won three of the four major tournaments last year in one of the best seasons of his career.

But he rarely played anywhere near the same level at Melbourne Park over the past fortnight and looked completely out-of-sorts against Italian fourth seed Sinner.

Djokovic made 54 unforced errors, in comparison to 32 winners, and was unable to create a single break point.

“I want to congratulate Sinner for playing a great match and a great tournament so far. He’s deservedly in the final. He outplayed me completely,” said Djokovic.

“I was shocked with my level – 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.”

Not the beginning of the end – Djokovic

In the aftermath of his defeat by Sinner, Djokovic said he felt “hot-headed” and would find it difficult to reflect on his exit “in a more profound way” for at least few more days.

But he maintained that his objectives for the rest of the season will remain unaltered.

“I still have high hopes for the other Slams, Olympics, and whatever tournaments that I’ll play. It’s just the beginning of the season,” said Djokovic, who had won all 10 of his previous other Australian Open semi-finals.

“It’s not the feeling that I’m used to. It has been incredibly satisfying for me to start off most of my seasons with a Grand Slam win and never losing in the semis or final of the Australian Open.

“So this time it’s a bit different, but it is what it is. This tournament hasn’t been up to my standard or the level that I would normally play or expect myself to play.

“But it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s beginning of the end as some people like to call it.”

What does Djokovic have left to achieve?

Djokovic might be turning 37 in late May, and has won almost everything in the game there is to be won, but his insatiable appetite for success is not slowing down.

When asked last month how it was possible to top a stunning 2023 season, Djokovic started his answer before the question had finished.

“Well, you can win four Grand Slams and Olympic gold,” Djokovic said with a smile before the United Cup event.

That dream is now over but two of his main objectives remain within reach:

  • standing alone with 25 Grand Slam singles titles

  • landing the Olympic gold which eludes him

While it is already hard to argue against Djokovic being the greatest player of all time, he is currently level with Australia’s Court in the metric most easily used to determine the best.

Djokovic, like all top players, places the most emphasis on the Grand Slams and has stripped down his calendar in his advancing years to peak at the most important tournaments.

That move has paid dividends, with Djokovic winning seven of the 11 majors he has been able to play since the start of the 2021 season.

This dominance has enabled him to surpass the tallies of contemporaries Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams, providing an opportunity to move clear of Court this year, with his next chance coming at the French Open in May.

The Olympics is the other focus and the raw emotions shown in his most recent defeats at the Games have illustrated how much mental emphasis he has devoted to winning gold.

Tears streamed as he walked off court after a first-round defeat by Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro at Rio 2016, while he was disconsolate following a semi-final loss to Germany’s Alexander Zverev at Tokyo 2020.

If he lands the title at Paris 2024, Djokovic would become only the fifth singles player – following in the footsteps of Steffi Graf, Andre Agassi, Williams and Nadal – to complete a career ‘Golden Slam’.

Graf became the only player to achieve a calendar ‘Golden Slam’, winning all four majors and the Olympics in the same year, when she swept the board in 1988.

“Let’s see what happens in the rest of the season,” Djokovic, in his concluding thought at Melbourne Park, said.