Such is Novak Djokovic’s greatness on the tennis court that he is expected to routinely win the majority of his matches, so when the Serbian lost twice on Saturday it was a surprise of seismic proportions.
That he lost one of his matches after having three match points was incredulous, given there is no one more adept at closing out a match than the world No.1.
He was beaten in both the singles and doubles in Malaga, Spain as Italy beat Serbia 2-1 to set up a Davis Cup final against Australia on Sunday.
Jannik Sinner stunned Djokovic in a 6-2 2-6 7-5 victory in their singles match, with the Italian saving three match points on his way to victory after a two-hour, 35-minute epic which helped underdog Italy draw level with Serbia in the semifinal.
Sinner secured the only break point he had engineered against Djokovic in the final set to clinch a memorable win.
It was the 22-year-old’s second victory over Djokovic this month, having beaten the 24-time grand slam champion in the group stages of the ATP Finals before losing to him in the final.
Later in the day, Djokovic experienced another loss, this time when he and his compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic were defeated 6-3 6-4 in the doubles to Sinner and Lorenzo Sonego as Italy reached the final for the first time in 25 years, when Sinner wasn’t even born.
“It was for sure the game-changer today,” world No. 4 Sinner said of saving three match points at 0-40 down at 4-5 in the deciding set, per Reuters.
“I just tried to push in every single point and the 0-40 game helped the confidence and also after I broke him. It’s all part of tennis.
“Obviously playing doubles in the decider of a Davis Cup tie is not easy. There’s a lot of pressure, I think we both handled it really well. We are a very complete team and each one of us is really happy to be here.”
Djokovic has enjoyed an incredible season, even by his own lofty standards, winning three of the year’s four grand slams and a record eighth season-ending ATP Finals title.
It was the Serb’s first singles defeat in the Davis Cup since 2011, when he was forced to retire injured against Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro.
“For me personally it’s a huge disappointment, because I take the responsibility, obviously having three match points, being so close to winning it,” said Djokovic, per the Davis Cup website.
“When you lose for your country, the bitter feeling is even greater.”
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Jessica Roberts serves up the latest in the world of tennis. With a love for the racket sport, she reports on tennis matches, player rankings, and Grand Slam events, ensuring readers stay informed about the tennis world.