In a massive upset, Denis Istomin knocked out defending champion Novak Djokovic in the second round of the Australian Open on Thursday.
The unseeded Uzbekistani earned the biggest win of his career when he came back from a set down to defeat Djokovic 7-6(8), 5-7, 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 in a marathon match lasting nearly five hours in the Rod Laver Arena.
It was an incredible result for Istomin, who had lost his last five matches to the Serb and was forced to play in the qualifying rounds in order to make the main draw at Melbourne Park.
It was a nervy start from Djokovic, who was up 4-1 in the opening set tiebreaker only to lose. This gave the underdogs supporters some hope, but they had no idea what they were in for…
Istomin continued to land impressive forehands and had Djokovic on the ropes deep in the second set at 5-4 up.
But like the champion Djokovic is, the world number two made a couple of clutch plays to save the set and went on to break Istomin the very next game, seemingly turning the match around in a matter of minutes.
Istomin’s movement around the baseline became limited in the third set as Djokovic turned on the class, breaking his opponent three times to move into the lead… a comeback win looking all the more certain.
However, Istomin managed to find another gear in the fourth set to earn an early break. Djokovic managed to break back but there were ominous signs, as the six-time champion was racking up unforced errors at every turn. He would end up with a staggering 72 for the match.
Istomin dominated the ensuing tiebreaker to force a deciding set. This is where, despite the tension, the world number 117 found patience and poise to go 4-2 up after a couple sublime winners. Istomin remained resolute on serve, not even giving Djokovic a sniff of break point, to close out a career-defining match on serve.
The exact moment when it all happened.
— FOX Sports Tennis (@FoxSportsTennis) 19 January 2017
Istomin moves into the third round of the Australian Open for just the second time in his career, where he will face 30th seed Pablo Carreno-Busta. The Spaniard eased past Brit Kyle Edmund 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 earlier in the day.
In other day four action, third seed Milos Raonic was too good for Gilles Muller, winning 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(4) in a touch over two hours. As usual, the Canadian was sublime on serve, firing 21 aces and winning 84 percent of his first service points.
The Wimbledon finalist faces another Gilles in the second round – 25th seed Gilles Simon – as he looks for a third consecutive Round of 16 appearance in Melbourne.