The king is dead. Long live the king: Djoker dethroned as Sinner snaps legend’s 2195-day Australian Open streak

The 22-year-old Italian claimed the first two sets 6-1 6-2 as Djokovic imploded in spectacular fashion, delivering one of the worst performances of his career amid a mountain of unforced errors.

 

 

 

Djokovic beat Sinner at Wimbledon in 2022 after dropping the first two sets, and the Italian must have feared a repeat of that when Djokovic lifted his level in the third set, saving an early break point and sending the set to a tiebreak.

 

Nerves set in for Sinner – the prospect of dumping out Djokovic in straight sets clearly beginning to tell – and he wasted a match point before Djokovic sealed the tiebreaker 8-6.

 

But he recovered from that missed opportunity and stifled the potential fightback from the world number one and 24-time grand slam champion, breaking midway through the fourth set before sealing victory in just under three and a half hours.

 

Sinner said: “It was a very very tough match … I had the match point and I missed the forehand, but this is tennis.”

 

“I was looking forward for this match. It’s always nice to have this kind of player that you can learn from,” he said, adding that he learned from losing to Djokovic in the semi-finals of Wimbledon last year.

 

Since then, Sinner has won three of their four meetings, including in the Davis Cup as Sinner guided Italy to a milestone win.

 

 

 

Djokovic finished the match with 54 unforced errors to just 32 winners, his equal-record 33-match Australian Open win streak crumbling in front of a rowdy Rod Laver Arena crowd.

 

Sinner will face the winner of Friday night’s other semi-final between third seed Daniil Medvedev and sixth seed Alexander Zverev.

 

Sinner broke Djokovic’s very first service game again then broke again with ease later in the set, serving it out comfortably in just 35 minutes.

 

Djokovic was far below his usual standard in a nightmare first set, landing just 43 per cent of his first serves and making two double faults and 15 unforced errors.

 

It was just the third time Djokovic had ever lost a set 1-6 at the Australian Open – one of them coming on his 2005 first-round debut against the great Marat Safin, the other in the fourth round of 2013 when he lost the first set 1-6 to Stan Wawrinka only to win a 12-10 in the fifth set of an all-time epic.

 

The second set was hardly an improvement, Djokovic being broken twice as the unforced errors continued to mount – 14 in the set, compared to just six winners.

 

Djokovic threatened a comeback in the third set, raising his level significantly to match the Italian, finally making his first aces while getting the upper hand in extended rallies for the first time in the match.

 

But Sinner’s serve meant he was holding serve comfortably, never facing a break point with Djokovic seeming incapable of making inroads with his returns.

 

Djokovic defended a break point in his opening game of the third set but they remained on serve from there on, reaching a tiebreak. Sinner had match point at 6-5 but gave it away with an unforced error, before Djokovic sealed the set.

 

Sinner shook off the disappointment to threaten an early break in the fourth set, but Djokovic saved three break points. Sinner broke at the next game for a 3-1 lead, and staved off a close game to consolidate the break despite Djokovic throwing the kitchen sink at the rising star.

 

Serving for the set, the nerves began to set in again, with an early unforced error and a double fault. But Sinner steadied himself and served it out in style, sealing the biggest win of his career with a massive forehand winner.

 

 

 

From the offing, Sinner was playing with the kind of elite ball-striking and confidence that has seen him surge to a first-ever Australian Open semi-final and just his second at a slam – having been halted by a masterful Djokovic performance at this stage at Wimbledon last year.

 

He put Djokovic into a 15-30 hole in the Serb’s first service game thanks to a Djokovic double fault, and the 22-year-old Italian broke at the first opportunity, a thunderous swinging forehand volley the final shot of an 18-point rally.

 

Sinner held comfortably for a 3-0 lead, his powerful forehand more than holding its own against the world number one in baseline rallies, and brought up another break point on Djokovic’s next service game before the world number one fought back to hold.

 

But Sinner comfortably held again for a 4-1 lead, and broke Djokovic to just 15 before serving out the set 6-1 as Djokovic continued to make unforced errors and uncharacteristic sloppy mistakes.

 

Recently-retired Australian tennis star John Millman described Djokovic’s error-fest in commentary as “super unusual”.

 

Sinner had almost silenced the fired-up crowd at Rod Laver Arena in the opening set, but they burst into a loud ‘Nole’ chant when he held serve to open the second set. Yet even their encouragement couldn’t stop the parade of Djokovic errors.

 

In Djokovic’s next service game, an almost unbelievable four unforced errors gifted Sinner another break to 15, the Italian taking a 2-1 lead.

 

There was another double fault in his next service game, then a wild backhand that was followed up by Djokovic letting out a vocal exclamation of disgust.

 

 

Another unforced error at deuce – a forehand slammed into the net – gave Sinner another break point.

 

At long last, the real Novak arrived, over an hour into the match. Djokovic dragged Sinner from side to side with dazzling striking before thundering an unstoppable winner past the Italian. He pumped his fist and waved the crowd into a deafening roar.

 

But as quickly as the moment arrived, the resurgence evaporated, Djokovic losing the next two points and being broken once more.

 

Sinner suddenly held a 5-2 lead and was serving for the set. Djokovic was fighting hard, making it to deuce, but Sinner wouldn’t be denied as he claimed the set 6-2. While Djokovic had improved his first serve percentage from the first set, he still made 14 unforced errors to just six winners in the second set.

 

Djokovic served first in the third set and – in the point of the match – saved a break point before winning the game with a masterful drop shot, bringing out a first pump. He appeared to have found another gear when he took a 0-30 lead on Sinner’s second service game of the set, but the Italian responded well to win the next four points and win the game.

 

The contest, at long last, began to feel evenly matched. The rallies were going longer – and Djokovic was winning the vast majority of them. But Sinner’s serve kept him out of trouble, never facing a break point.

 

 

Sinner missed a major opportunity when he failed to put away a drop shot at 0-15 on Djokovic’s serve at 5-5, but the game still went to deuce when Djokovic spurned a game point with a wild forehand.

 

After Djokovic missed another game point, play was halted for five minutes when an elderly man had a medical emergency in the stands and was treated before being escorted from the stadium.

 

When play resumed, Djokovic drained an ace before a lucky net deflection sealed the game. Sinner soon sent it to a tiebreak with an easy hold of serve.

 

Sinner came out aggressively, hunting a big return on Djokovic’s second serve in the opening point – but sending it well long. Sinner sent a backhand into the net on the next point, the Italian looking tight with the prospect of a maiden grand slam final looming large – and giving Djokovic the ‘mini-break’. But he got one back to make it 2-2 with a Djokovic error, only for Djokovic to race to 4-2 after a superb forehand winner followed by Sinner finding the net with his third unforced error of the breaker.

 

But from that difficult position, Sinner went on a tear – first he slammed down an ace, before a Djokovic forehand went wide after a lengthy rally. Sinner then hit a lightning-quick forehand winner to lead 5-4. Djokovic lobbed his rival at the net to level it at 5-5, but couldn’t return his next serve.

 

Sinner was 6-5 up with match point, but had another unforced error when he sent a forehand into the net. Djokovic had the upper hand in their next rally and attacked the net, with Sinner’s passing shot crosscourt going inches wide.

 

 

Sinner then missed a backhand long, with Djokovic raising his fist as the crowd exploded into a frenzy after the Serbian sealed the tiebreak 8-6.

 

If Sinner was disappointed by the missed chance, he hardly showed it – holding serve easily to open the fourth set before bringing up two break points at 15-40 on Djokovic’s first service game. Djokovic fought back – and saved another break point after deuce – and held serve with some clutch serving.

 

Djokovic was 40-0 up in his next service game before slumping to deuce, and a double fault gave Sinner a break point – which he took advantage of when Djokovic sent a shot well long.

 

Djokovic threw the kitchen sink at Sinner in the next game in a desperate bid to break back, but Sinner just survived to consolidate the break – leading Djokovic to smash his racquet into a microphone on the umpire’s chair. Somehow, Djokovic avoided a code violation for the transgression.

 

But Sinner continued to serve his way towards a first slam final, making it 5-2 with a flawless hold of serve. Djokovic held easily, and Sinner had his second look at victory after coming so close in the tiebreak.

 

Again, the nerves set in, with an unforced error and a double-fault putting him in trouble. But an ace and an unreturnable serve brought up match point – and this time, he made no mistake.

 

 

Gideon Canice

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