Novak Djokovic suffered perhaps the most stunning upset of his career, going down in five sets to wild card Denis Istomin, who began the tournament ranked outside of the top 100. Denis the menace played the match, set, and service game of his life, to defeat Djokovic 7-6 5-7 2-6 7-6 6-4. The world #2 started the match lethargically, and never quite reached a fourth gear. Djokovic faced six break points in his first service game of the match, and Istomin overall was steady on his serve. In the opening set tiebreak, Istomin saved a pair of set points, while Djokovic lost two straight serves to lose it 10-8.
Once Djokovic had given Istomin belief in himself, the battle was on. Djokovic faced two set points to go two sets to love down, but pulled himself back from the brink of ruin, saving them and going on to break and take the set to even the match up. The third set then proceeded to quickly go the Serbian’s way and he looked to be in control, and ready to survive a challenging, but reasonable early round test. Rather than shutting the door on Istomin however, Djokovic again had his level drop, and lost control of the match. Istomin went 4-1 up, and although he did lose that break, it gave him belief again. Djokovic saved a set point on his serve, but returned poorly against Istomin’s serve, and in the end he dropped the fourth set in a tiebreak, getting dragged in a fifth set with a feisty opponent.
In the fifth set it all came together for Istomin, his steady diet of powerful, accurate serves, beguiled Djokovic, who vainly chopped away with slices on his returns. The forehand down the line shots that had been clicking when Istomin found success in the match, hit home when Istomin seized his chance to break, and then consolidate his break, going up 4-2 in the 5th. At this point, Djokovic was on the ropes, but he didn’t act like it. The match had an eerie calm about it, as Djokovic continued to strike shots towards Istomin, even though his legs were cramping. The Uzbek showed for the first time signs of tightness and stress in Novak’s last service game, but when he stepped up to the line to serve for the match at 5-4, it was Djokovic, not Istomin, that seemed nervous. Istomin’s nerve held, and with surprising ease, he put away Djokovic on his one and only match point chance.
Istomin’s pure ball striking produced fantastic results, as he kept Djokovic moving, and played aggressively, going for his shots without fear. The Uzbek is a good server, but has never been a great mover, however Djokovic’s normally elite return game didn’t show up this match, as he continued his shocking decline in results, after formerly being the world #1. Djokovic’s loss opens up the bottom half of the draw, and he simply looked lost and passionless on court. Istomin pulled off the shocker in large part because he seemed to be in disbelief, and floating on cloud nine at how well he was playing the whole match. He redlined his game, and posted a historic result, even when hardly anyone though he could get the job done once he failed to go two sets to love up, in the second set. In closing, it’s been years since men’s tennis has had an upset this big, occur this early, and for Djokovic, it almost never happens, especially in this decade.
Few will remember Mirjana Lucic-Baroni on a day dominated by Djokovic’s defeat, but the Croatian deserves praise as well. She easily dispatched #3 seed Aga Radwanska 6-3 6-2, controlling the entire proceedings of the match. The world #79 posted her own historic result at 34 years old.
Top Men Ease into Round 3
Despite Djokovic’s defeat, the bottom half of the men’s draw mostly held to form on day 4. Milos Raonic continued to serve well, and despite battling the flu, he had no trouble with Gilles Muller, winning in straight sets. Rafael Nadal concluded round 2 play against Marcos Baghdatis in a late night match, an aging Baghdatis checked out and fell in straight sets, to a fit, and motivated Rafa, who demonstrated he could boss the Cypriot around and move him all over the court. Gael Monfils lost focus for a set, but overall he had few problems with Alexandr Dolgopolov, who was all over the place with his form in their four set match.
Germans Philipp Kohlschreiber and Alexander Zverev both dashed American hopes in round 2, neither Donald Young nor Frances Tiafoe came close to even taking a set in their matches. Richard Gasquet posted triple breadsticks against Carlos Berlocq, his countryman Gilles Simon had double breadsticks against Rogerio Dutra Silva, David Goffin surrendered just seven games against a seemingly gassed Radek Stepanek, and Ivo Karlovic recovered from a long five setter to dispatch Andrew Whittington without a tiebreak. Spaniards David Ferrer and Roberto Bautista Agut both reached the third round with confidence. Ferrer lost the first set but had it easy thereafter, while RBA only surrendered eight games against Yoshihito Nishioka.
Outside of the Djokovic match, the men’s match of the day was an expected five setter between Benoit Paire and Fabio Fognini. Paire dropped the second and fourth sets, but won the fifth set with a break, and battled past Fognini, who had fewer weapons, but the ability to hit from both wings. Paire remains a mecurial talent who is a threat to most players in the draw, but can also fall off the map at times.
Young Gun Men Suffer Disappointments
Young guns Kyle Edmund, Hyeon Chung, and Jordan Thompson were quite disappointing in their matches, winning just two sets total between them. Edmund crashed out to Pablo Carreno Busta, ending British hopes of having three men in the third round. Chung played great for a set against Grigor Dimitrov, but the Bulgarian found his form and edge the remaining three sets of the match, by rising to a level that Chung wasn’t able to reach. Thompson played miserable tennis for two sets, and then finally woke up against Dominic Thiem, but Thiem broke him down to take the match in four sets.
Top Women March On
Karolina Pliskova, Dominika Cibulkova, Jo Konta, and Serena Williams all reached the third round with straight set victories. Serena was tested by Lucie Safarova but came out on top in key points. Konta and Pliskova in particular are both showing excellent form early on in the tournament.
In other women’s results, Jelena Ostapenko beat Yulia Putintseva in straights, Timea Bacsinszky handled Danka Kovincic, Elena Vesnina dispatched Mandy Minella, Caroline Wozniacki eased past Donna Vekic, Barbora Strycova, and Nicole Gibbs were also straight set victors. Ekaterina Makarova advanced thanks to Sara Errani’s retirement.
Caroline Garcia was forced into a third set with Oceane Dodin, Greece’s Maria Sakkari upset Alize Cornet in three sets, Daria Gavrilova also won in three against Ana Konjuh, and Jennifer Brady, a 21 year old rising American, upset Heather Watson in a 10-8 third set battle.