By John Pye, The Associated Press on January 26, 2024.
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) – A solitary loss in 11 semifinals at the Australian Open was nowhere near enough for Novak Djokovic to contemplate a generational change in tennis.
Djokovic didn’t get a look at a breakpoint during a 6-1, 6-2, 6-7 (6), 6-3 loss to Jannik Sinner on Friday that ended the 10-time Australian Open champion’s unbeaten streak after making the final four at Melbourne Park.
He commended the 22-year-old Italian for playing “flawless” tennis – it was Sinner’s third win over Djokovic in their last four matches – but rated his own performance as the worst he could remember at a major.
“This tournament hasn’t been up to my standard or criteria or the level that I would normally play or expect myself to play,” Djokovic said, “but doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s beginning of the end, you know, as some people like to call it.
“Let’s see what happens in the rest of the season.”
The 36-year-old Djokovic has been dealing with illness and a sore right wrist this month in Australia and clearly wasn’t at his peak, by his own admission and from observations across the net from Sinner.
But no man has won more Grand Slam titles than Djokovic, who lifted his record to 24 with three titles last year when he went 27-1 in the majors tournaments.
“I still have high hopes for other Slams, Olympics, and whatever tournaments that I’ll play,” he said. “It’s not the feeling that I’m used to. I mean, it kind of has been incredibly satisfying for me to start off most of my seasons with a Grand Slam win and never lost in semis or finals of Australian Open.”
The so-called Big Three of Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have dominated the majors in this era.
Stan Wawrinka’s title here a decade ago was the only Australian title that one of the Big Three didn’t win since Marat Safin beat Lleyton Hewitt in the 2005 final.
That’s going to change this Sunday, with Sinner in his first final and facing either Daniil Medvedev or Alexander Zverev.
Federer is retired and Nadal is injured. Djokovic said he’s far from finished, even if his streak of 33 wins here dating to a fourth-round exit in 2018 is.
“I’m kind of hot-headed right now. After the match it’s very difficult to reflect on things in a more profound way,” he said. “… but I definitely have a lot to be very proud of in terms of what I have achieved here.
“The streak was going to end one day. It was going to happen, and, you know, at least I gave everything I possibly can under circumstances where I didn’t play well, and I lost to a player that has a very good chance to win his first Slam.”
AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis