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Novak Djokovic’s defeat against Lorenzo Sonego as one of the worst defeats of his career

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World No. 1 Novak Djokovic suffered one of their most demanding losses of his professional tennis career on Saturday. Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego, that did not even qualify for the Erste Bank Open but got in as a lucky loser, stunned Novak Djokovic 6-2, 6-1 to advance to the last four at Vienna.

Though the win was easily the very best of Sonego’s career, the Serb was on the incorrect side of one of the oddest routes of his livelihood. By the previous match, with Sonego serving for the match at 5-1, Djokovic didn’t even seem bothered about the outcome.

Yes, clinching the [year-end] number one had an effect on me today, I’ve done what I came here for, securing the number one. And I move completely fine with today’s result,” Djokovic remarked.”

There were various junctures of the match where World No. 1 seemed flat and uninspired in his play. Novak Djokovic subsequently caused controversy in his media conference, where he succeeded that lack of inspiration might have been one of the reasons for his defeat.

Anybody who has closely followed the career of Novak Djokovic would understand this is not the first time the Serb continues to be at the receiving end of a peculiar blowout reduction, where he has almost seemed to be tanking. That’s something that the likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have by and large avoided in their careers, which makes the comparison even starker. On that note, here’s a throwback to some of the worst declines which Novak Djokovic has endured in his profession.

The 6-2, 6-1 loss to Sonego is that the second-worst of Novak Djokovic’s career; the Safin loss beats it as long as it had been a best-of-five contest. However given his place on the tour right now – Djokovic is World No. 1 in a long-drawn way, and shutting in on the all-time Slam record – the Vienna defeat is perhaps worse than anything he has ever faced in his entire career.

But losing so badly on an indoor hardcourt (arguably Djokovic’s best Ground) to a journeyman player whose best surface is slow clay, and who has never done anything of note at an enormous event on the road, is beyond shocking.

Novak Djokovic said in his press conference he isn’t too worried by the result, and that he will now start preparing in full swing for the ATP Finals in London. It’s a mark of how great a champion he’s that he can say something like that after one he is at the lowest phase of his career.

1.Marat Safin defeated Novak Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 6-1 at Australian Open 2005

After turning pro in 2003, Novak Djokovic played Challenger and Futures events to the next year since he tried to gain some experience on the tour. His first ATP tournament arrived at Umag in 2004, where he dropped to Filippo Volandri in the opening round.

Djokovic created his Grand Slam tournament debut by qualifying for the 2005 Australian Open, having conquered future rival Stan Wawrinka en route. The Serb was pitted against Russia’s Marat Safin, who happened to be among those players that Djokovic had looked up to as a young tyke.

But the meeting with his idol didn’t go as planned for Djokovic, since his game was obviously underdeveloped at there. The Serb needed a frail body and lacked bite on his serve, also was bagelled by the World No. 4 at the first set before losing 6-0, 6-2, 6-1.

Though the reduction was the worst of Novak Djokovic’s career, it was still a memorable landmark in 1 sense: Marat Safin would go on to win the Australian Open that year, and Djokovic goes on to set his reign in Melbourne in the next several years, winning eight names there.

2.Lleyton Hewitt defeated Novak Djokovic 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 at Us Open 2006

Novak Djokovic turned professional in 2003 and has been deemed a lightweight for several years before he changed everybody’s head at the 2008 Australian Open. Djokovic didn’t summit like Rafael Nadal, also played with a lot of Slam events before 2008 as a heavy underdog. In those days, reaching the fourth round of a Slam has been considered a big accomplishment for him.

Djokovic attained the top 40 from the ATP singles positions by creating his first quarterfinal appearance at the 2006 French Open and reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon a month afterward. Following Wimbledon, Djokovic won his first ATP title in Amersfoot; he’d apparently started to take his first steps towards becoming a top-rung player on the tour.

At the 2006 US Open, Novak Djokovic made it to the third round of his second US Open, but he lost to former World No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt by the lopsided scoreline of 6-3, 6-1, 6-2. The Aussie was a leading player in 2006, so that this reduction was not that significant in the future for Djokovic – who would go on to have his breakout year in 2007.

3.Wilfried Tsonga defeated Novak Djokovic 6-2, 6-2 at Rogers cup 2014

From the middle of the decade, Novak Djokovic had established himself as one of the winningest players in the sport’s history. However, in 2014, Djokovic was coming from a draining effort at Wimbledon that saw him beat 20-time Major winner Roger Federer at a five-set epic.

The Serb was clearly drained from his fortnight in London, also looked rather flat against Gael Monfils at the second round at the Rogers Cup. The World No. 1 was eventually able to eke out a three-set win within the Frenchman, who did not have enough weight on his own shots to conquer Djokovic.

Djokovic was anticipated to pull his socks up against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga from the next round, but that was not to be. The Serb appeared out of his depth in the encounter from Tsonga, doing little to issue the big-hitting Frenchman who hit 23 champions to just 13 unforced errors.

What was more shocking was that Tsonga had dropped 18 successive sets to Djokovic in their previous match-ups, and yet was able to blast the Serb off the court in Toronto.

4. Fernando Verdasco defeated Novak Djokovic 6-2, 6-2 at Monte Carlo Masters 2010

Back in 2010 Novak Djokovic was largely the next wheel into the Federer-Nadal duopoly, repeatedly falling short against them at the Grand Slams. But he was a formidable foe for the rest of the excursion, and nearly never went down without a struggle.

When he came to Monte Carlo, Djokovic appeared to be knocking on the doors of greatness. Djokovic managed to advance to the semifinals of this event, hoping for a go against Nadal in the final. Djokovic’s opponent Fernando Verdasco, meanwhile, had reached nine quarterfinals at the Experts 1000 degree before Monte Carlo and was seeking the first semifinal.

However, what followed was a jolt 6-2, 6-2 loss to the Spaniard, as Djokovic committed over 40 unforced errors against a single-digit champions figure. The Serb additionally won only 15 points in eight return games, in what was possibly the worst claycourt operation of his career till afterward.

5.Rafael Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic 6-3, 6-1 at Monte Carlo Masters 2012

 

Novak Djokovic had created a tense rivalry with Rafael Nadal at the end of 2011, a year in which he beat the Spaniard on six occasions. Nadal was forced to seem normal in more than half of the matches, and the tennis community has been left shocked by how readily the Serb finished the ‘Fedal’ duopoly on the tour.

Djokovic would go to beat Nadal once again in the 2012 Australian Open closing, suggesting he had set an ironclad pattern. Was Novak Djokovic going to put the scene for a fresh brand of domination on the excursion?

But Rafael Nadal had other thoughts once the pair met in the final of the 2012 Monte Carlo Masters. This time, it had been Djokovic who was forced to appear ordinary as the Spaniard won 6-3, 6-1 to clinch an eighth successive title at Monte Carlo.

While the Serb wasn’t at his absolute best, he seemed determined sufficient to compete. But, Rafael Nadal was in no mood for mercy as he put on a masterclass to remind everybody he was the King of Clay.

6.Rafael Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 at Roland Garros 2020

In the 2020 year, Novak Djokovic has by far been the most consistent player. The World No. 1 has won as many as five titles this season – the Australian Open, the ATP Cup, the Dubai Open, the Cincinnati Masters, and the Rome Masters.

The Serb was considered by many to be the name favorite at Roland Garros also, but he was outclassed by the King of Clay Rafael Nadal in the past. By the conclusion of the initial two collections, Nadal had struck 21 winners to just 6 unforced errors, making Djokovic look totally helpless. In the long run, the Serb would lose by the somewhat shocking scoreline of 6-0, 6-2, 7-5.

7.Dominic Thiem defeated Novak Djokovic 7-6, 6-3, 6-0 at Roland Garros at 2017

Novak Djokovic shed a lot of sweat and tears during his early career attempts at Roland Garros, but he managed to win the elusive Paris Major in 2016, where he overcomes his rival Andy Murray in the final. The 2016 French Open triumph was the Serb’s final Slam title over the subsequent two years as a significant slump in form followed.

Suffering from elbow niggles and lack of motivation for nearly a year, Djokovic was far from his best in 2017 as he exited several big tournaments in the first rounds. The Serb still was able to get a high two seeding in Paris, but the writing had been on the wall for a long time.

Up against sixth-seeded Dominic Thiem from the quarterfinals, Djokovic was made to look the second-best to the entirety of the match. Thiem, who had managed to win only a single game in a reduction to Djokovic per week before in Rome, managed to bludgeon 20 forehand winners beyond the Serb at a 7-6, 6-3, 6-0 win. From the end of the match, Novak Djokovic was clearly dispirited and disinterested, and Thiem was quick to end his misery by bagelling the Serb in the next set.

 

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