'One of worst I've ever played': Novak Djokovic loses at Australian Open for first time since 2018

Novak Djokovic in action against Jannik Sinner during their semi-final at the Australian Open.
Novak Djokovic had never before lost at the Australian Open after making it beyond the quarter-finals. Credit: AP

Novak Djokovic has been knocked out of the Australian Open for the first time in six years after a four-set semi-final defeat, calling it "one of the worst grand slam matches I've ever played".

Serbian Djokovic lost 6-1 6-2 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 to 22-year-old Jannik Sinner, who re-grouped from not taking a match point in the third set tie-break.

The 24-time major champion called his performance one of the worst of his career, adding he was left with a "not very pleasant feeling playing this way".

Defeat for Djokovic stops him from claiming an 11th title in Melbourne, and marks the first time he has ever lost at the tournament having made it beyond the quarter-finals.

Italian fourth seed Sinner, meanwhile, progresses to his first grand slam final on Sunday, where he will face either Russian third seed Daniil Medvedev or German sixth seed Alexander Zverev. The pair meet in Friday's second semi-final.

Following the match, Djokovic praised his opponent while sharing disappointment at his own performance, saying: "First I want to congratulate Sinner for playing a great match, great tournament so far.

"He's deservedly in the finals. He outplayed me completely today. I was, in a way, shocked with my level, in a bad way. There was not much I was doing right in the first two sets."

Sinner, meanwhile, said he was "really happy" to come through a "tough match" against Djokovic.

"I think after last year, especially the end of the year, it gave me confidence that I could potentially do some good results in grand slams," he said.

"But you still have to show it. There are people who talk a lot, but you have to show it.

"But, if it's not this year, it's next year, and then if it's not next year, it's the next year again. I'm really relaxed. I just try to work as hard as possible and in my mind I feel like the hard work always pays off in one way, and we are working really hard for our dreams."

Jannik Sinner (left) is congratulated by Novak Djokovic following their semi-final at the Australian Open. Credit: AP

Sinner was seen as the most likely rival to stop Djokovic ahead of the tournament, after beating him twice in two weeks at the end of last season at the ATP Finals and Davis Cup.

Djokovic committed 54 unforced errors and did not even make Sinner use his haymaker groundstrokes that often; the Italian instead able to maintain a very high but comfortable level and not face a single break point.

The Serbian struggled with illness at the start of the fortnight and had a tougher passage through to the last four than usual, losing three sets along the way.

An error-strewn start to the contest from Djokovic saw Sinner race to a two-set lead, with the Serbian winning just three games.

Djokovic, who had barely showed any emotion, clenched his fist after saving a break point in the opening game of the third set, and he at least managed to serve better.

At 5-5 and deuce on the Serbian's serve, a medical emergency in the crowd forced a delay for several minutes, but Djokovic held his nerve on the resumption.

The world number one knew it was now or never in the tie-break, and he opened up a 4-2 lead, but Sinner surged back, creating a match point at 6-5 but netting a forehand, and a backhand over the baseline two points later gave Djokovic a lifeline.

He was still hanging on, though, saving three break points in the second game of the fourth set only to then be broken from 40-0 two games later.

Djokovic forced Sinner to serve it out but the Italian did not waver, clinching the biggest win of his life with a forehand winner.

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