A shell-shocked Novak Djokovic is struggling to come to terms with how poorly he played in his loss to Jannik Sinner in the semi-finals of the Australian Open on Friday.
Djokovic had a perfect 10-0 record in semi-finals at Melbourne Park, but looked a shadow of his former self in the 6-1 6-2 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 loss to Sinner.
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The world No.1 won just three games in a nightmare first two sets and finished the match with an astonishing 54 unforced errors.
He did show some of his trademark fight when he saved a match point during a gripping third set tiebreaker, but failed to carry the momentum into the fourth set as Sinner grabbed the early break and held his nerve to serve it out.
The Serbian was in no mood to look for excuses, but labelled his performance as one of the worst in his career.
Djokovic said it was one of the worst matches of his career. Credit: AAP
“He’s deservedly in the final; he outplayed me completely today,” Djokovic said.
“I was shocked with my level, in a bad way. There was not much I was doing right in the first two sets.
Australian Open stunned as ‘hopeless’ Novak Djokovic bombs out
“I guess this is one of the worst grand slam matches I’ve ever played, at least that I remember.
“It’s not a very pleasant feeling playing this way.
“But at the same time, credit to him for doing everything better than me, you know, in every aspect of the game.
“I tried, I fought. I managed to raise the level a little bit in the third, saved match point, played a good tiebreak.
“But again, in the fourth set, it was a very bad game to lose, 40-0 up on 1-2, and against the wind a little bit.
“Just overall the … level of my tennis was really not great.”
Incredibly, it was the first time in Djokovic’s 415-match grand slam career (not including retirements) that he failed to create a single break-point opportunity.
“Probably that stat says a lot,” he said.
“First of all, he was serving very accurately and precisely. He was backing up his serve very well.
“For myself, it’s hard to describe … we don’t have that much time.
“There’s a lot of negative things that I’ve done on the court today in terms of my game that I’m not really pleased with, (be that) movement or forehand, backhand.
“Everything, you know, was just sub-par.
“He was very dominant, dominant on his service games.
“If you serve well and if you don’t face a break point, it plays with the mind of your opponent.”
Djokovic will now need to wait until the French Open in May for his next shot at what would be a record 25th major singles title.
He currently sits level with Australian legend Margaret Court on 24 slams.
What is certain is that the 36-year-old will have to play way better than he did on Friday against the free-swinging Italian if he is to challenge for a fourth title on the clay at Roland Garros.
– With AAP