Djokovic: I did try my best

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

MEL­BOURNE: A de­flated No­vak Djokovic blamed a bad day at the of­fice for his stun­ning sec­ond-round elim­i­na­tion by Uzbek wild­card De­nis Is­tomin which con­demned the Serb to his ear­li­est grand slam exit in nearly a decade.

A strangely off-colour Djokovic bowed out 7-6(8) 5-7 2-6 7-6(5) 6-4 at Rod Laver Arena, the court where he won his sixth ti­tle last year and was widely tipped to clinch a record sev­enth in 10 days’ time.

As the match slipped be­yond the sec­ond seed’s con­trol, Djokovic could con­jure lit­tle emo­tion to rally in the fifth set but he de­nied that his com­pet­i­tive fires were lack­ing in the stun­ning up­set.

“There was in­ten­sity, of course,” he told re­porters. “We played four-and-a-half hours. It’s just that, you know, it’s one of these days when you don’t feel that great on the court, don’t have much rhythm, and the player you’re play­ing against is feel­ing the ball very well. So, you know, that’s sport. I started the sea­son very well. Again, it’s a ten­nis match. On a given day, you can lose. I mean, noth­ing is im­pos­si­ble.

“What can I do? I did try my best till the last shot, but it didn’t work.”

After win­ning his maiden French Open to com­plete a sweep of grand slam ti­tles, Djokovic’s form fell away in the sec­ond half of last sea­son, prompt­ing queries about his mo­ti­va­tion lead­ing into the new sea­son.

Those queries looked to be put to bed after he opened his sea­son with vic­tory at the Qatar Open, hav­ing beaten World No 1 and long-time ri­val Andy Mur­ray in the fi­nal.

But the man­ner of Djokovic’s exit in Mel­bourne, where he has reigned supreme for most of the last decade, raised fresh doubts about the Serb’s mind­set.

He said he had not had time to re­flect on his men­tal state, but con­ceded that it was not his phys­i­cal fit­ness that was want­ing against Is­tomin on a mild af­ter­noon at Mel­bourne Park.

“Of course, four-and-a-half hours is not easy on the body. But still, I don’t think that has af­fected nei­ther me or my op­po­nent,” he said.

Still raw from the loss, Djokovic gave short shrift to a query about his play­ing sched­ule.

“At the mo­ment I just want to go home, spend time with my family, and that’s all,” he said, adding that the de­feat was hurt­ing him as much as any in the past. Of course. I’m not used to los­ing in Aus­tralian Open sec­ond round. I’ve al­ways played so well,” he said.

“Through­out the last 10 years, I’ve won six ti­tles here. This court has been so nice to me. I en­joyed it very much.

“Of course, it’s dis­ap­point­ing. But (at) the end of the day I have to ac­cept it.”

Mean­while, Ser­ena Wil­liams charged into the third round of the Aus­tralian Open yes­ter­day with an em­phatic 6-3 6-4 win over Czech Lu­cie Sa­farova. The sec­ond seeded Amer­i­can, bid­ding for a sev­enth ti­tle at Mel­bourne Park, served up a storm, club­bing 15 aces and 35 win­ners in the 86-minute con­test un­der the lights at Rod Laver Arena. – Reuters

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