Novak Djokovic is out of the Australian Open after crashing to a shock loss to fourth seed Jannik Sinner.
The 10-time champion showed his trademark fight, but was left with too much to do after a nightmare start to the match where he lost the first two sets in quick time.
Sinner, 22, showed experience beyond his age to recover from the third set blip and wrap up the 6-1 6-2 6-7(6) 6-3 victory in three hours and 20 minutes.
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The Serbian superstar looked out of sorts from the get go and committed a staggering 29 unforced errors in the first two sets and a whopping 54 for the match.
It was just the third time in Djokovic’s career he had won three games or less in the first two sets of a grand slam match.
Djokovic found his trademark range in the third set to force a tiebreaker and incredibly saved a match point before sending the match into a fourth set and raise hopes of a miraculous comeback.
Sinner is through to the Australian Open final. Credit: AAP
However, any momentum the Serb had was quickly halted early in the fourth set when Sinner broke in the fourth game.
The Italian then showed his class to safely serve out the biggest win of his career.
The loss was Djokovic’s first at Melbourne Park since 2018 and keeps him on 24 grand slam titles, equal with Margaret Court for most of all-time.
It was also the first time Djokovic has lost a semi-final or final at the Australian Open.
And incredibly only the second time in his grand slam career he has failed to create a single break point chance.
The tennis world was shocked by what unfolded early on.
Sinner takes the first set 6-1 in 35 minutes. I thought Sinner had a great chance today; I didn’t expect Djokovic to look so hopeless out of the gates. Still a long way to go,” prominent journalist Ben Rothernberg tweeted.
“Jannik Sinner leads Novak Djokovic 6-1. Jannik was amazing but Nole just… horrendous,” Jose Morgado wrote before adding, “Even Rod Laver is shocked.”
Djokovic had a very rare off day at Melbourne Park. Credit: AAP
While the focus was largely on Djokovic’s flat performance, nothing should be taken away from Sinner’s remarkable effort.
He will play either Russian third seed Daniil Medvedev or German sixth seed Alexander Zverev on Sunday night, firmly believing it’s time to have his own name etched on the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup.
On the evidence of not only the past fortnight in Melbourne — where he has yet to drop a set — but the past four months, Sinner is very much the man to beat.
Thriving under Australian super-coach Darren Cahill, who guided Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi and Simona Halep to world No.1, Sinner has swept all before him since a sapping fourth-round loss to Zverev at the US Open in September.
He has collected titles in Beijing — where he conquered Medvedev and Wimbledon champion Carlos Alcaraz — and Vienna, made the season-ending championship final in Turin and piloted Italy to a drought-breaking Davis Cup triumph.
Sinner’s twin victories over Djokovic at the ATP Finals and Davis Cup had placed the tennis world on notice.
But few could have imagined how he’d put Djokovic to the sword on Friday.
He bolted out of the blocks, breaking the 10-time champion in the second game of the match, then again in the sixth to race through the opening set in 35 minutes.
It was the first time Djokovic had conceded a set 6-1 at the Open in a decade.
As the great Serb made error after error, Sinner cracked winners seemingly at will.
There was no let-up in the second as the Italian claimed two more double breaks to leave Djokovic – and his legion of fans – looking shell-shocked.
Djokovic had recovered from two sets down against Sinner in the Wimbledon quarter-finals two years ago and staged another fightback on Friday.
But even after saving a match point in the tense third-set tiebreaker, there was no escaping this time.
Sinner broke Djokovic for a fifth time in the fourth game of the fourth set, then held his nerve and serve three more times to snuff out any comeback and seal victory after three hours and 22 minutes with a huge forehand winner.
– With AAP