- It’s Jonathan Jurejko
- BBC Sport at Melbourne Park
Novak Djokovic has described the unusual Australian Open defeat by semi-final opponent Jannik Sinner as “one of the worst” of his Grand Slam career.
Serbia’s Djokovic lost in Melbourne for the first time since 2018 as Sinner ended his 33-match winning streak.
The 24-year-old Grand Slam champion was aiming to leave Margaret Court in terms of all-time major victories.
“It’s not fun to play like this,” Djokovic, 36, said.
“But at the same time, credit to [Sinner] for doing everything better than me in every game.”
Djokovic, who will remain world number one despite losing four sets, won three of four major matches last year in one of the best seasons of his career.
But he hasn’t played anywhere near the same level at Melbourne Park in the last two nights and looked out of sorts against the fourth-ranked Italian.
Djokovic made 54 unforced errors, compared to 32 winners, and was unable to make a single break point.
“I want to thank Sinner for playing a great match and a great tournament so far. He deserves to be in the final. He completely outplayed me,” said Djokovic.
“I was surprised at my age – badly. There wasn’t much I could do in the first two rounds.
“I think this is one of the worst Grand Slam matches I’ve ever played.”
Not the beginning of the end – Djokovic
After his defeat by Sinner, Djokovic said that he felt a “hot head” and that it would be difficult for him to think about his exit “seriously” for at least a few days.
But he insisted that his goals throughout this period will not change.
“I still have high hopes for the next Slams, the Olympics, and every tournament I play. It’s just the beginning of the season,” said Djokovic, who won all 10 of his Australian Open semi-finals.
“It’s not how I felt before. It’s been very satisfying for me to start my season and win a Grand Slam without losing in the semis or finals of the Australian Open.
“So this time it’s changed, but that’s the way it is. The tournament is not at my level or the level that I like to play or expect to play at.
“But it doesn’t mean it’s the beginning of the end as some people like to call it.”
What does Djokovic have left to achieve?
Djokovic may have turned 37 at the end of May, and he’s won just about everything in the tournament he’s worth, but his desire to succeed is undiminished.
When asked last month how he managed to top the 2023 season, Djokovic began his answer before the question ended.
“Well, you can win four Grand Slams and an Olympic gold,” Djokovic said with a smile before the United Cup event.
That dream is now gone but two of his main reasons would have been fulfilled:
- standing alone with 25 Grand Slam titles
- climbing the Olympic gold that eludes him
While it’s hard to argue with Djokovic being the greatest player of all time, he currently has the Australian court on a scale that is easily used to determine who is the best.
Djokovic, like all top players, focuses on the Grand Slams and cleared his calendar in his senior years to reach the peak of the most important tournaments.
The move has paid off, with Djokovic winning seven of his 11 matches since the start of 2021.
This dominance has helped him win against the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams, giving him the chance to leave Court this year, with his next opportunity coming at the French Open in May.
The Olympic Games is another goal and the pains he recently overcame at the Games showed how hard he worked to win the gold.
Tears flowed from the court after his first loss to Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro at Rio 2016, while he was devastated following a semi-final loss to Germany’s Alexander Zverev at Tokyo 2020.
If he takes the title at Paris 2024, Djokovic would become only the fifth player – following in the footsteps of Steffi Graf, Andre Agassi, Williams and Nadal – to complete the ‘Golden Slam’ career.
Graf became the only player to complete the ‘Golden Slam’ calendar, winning all four majors and the Olympics in the same year, when he swept the group in 1988.
“Let’s see what happens the rest of the season,” said Djokovic, in his final thoughts at Melbourne Park.