Djokovic Suffers Worst Defeat of Career in Vienna

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  • Novak Djokovic fell to Lorenzo Sonego 6-2, 6-1 at the Vienna Open.
  • The loss was Djokovic’s first ever to a “lucky loser”.
  • Djokovic will head home before returning to London for the ATP Finals where he looks to tie another tennis record.

The Vienna Open has provided the high and low of Novak Djokovic’s tennis career. Days after matching his childhood idol’s long-standing record, Djokovic suffered the worst defeat of his professional tennis career.

The worl no. 1 tennis player entered the Erste Bank Open, popularly known as the Vienna Open, looking to match the legendary Pete Sampras’ record of ending the year as the top tennis player in the world rankings on six different occasions. To do that, Djokovic only needed to beat Borna Coric in the second round of the tournament.

He did that two days ago, saving four set points in the opening set to win 7-6, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals of the tournament. Rafael Nadal still has a mathematical chance of overtaking Djokovic if he plays a tournament in Bulgaria next month. But with that highly unlikely, Djokovic’s win over Coric’ virtually earned him a sixth year-end top ranking.

Worst Defeat of Career

But after doing what he said he would be in Austria for, Djokovic had a major letdown. In fact, the Serb suffered the worst loss of his career in his next match, Facing “lucky loser” Lorenzo Sonego, Djokovic lost 6-2, 6-1 in an inexplicable 68-minute dismantling that was uncharacteristic of a player of Djokovic’s caliber.

The loss was only the third for Djokovic this year. His only other losses in 2020 were the disqualification at the U.S. Open for accidentally striking a line judge in the throat and his loss to Nadal in the French Open Finals.

The defeat was also Djokovic’s first ever to a “lucky player”. Meanwhile, Sonego is the first lucky player to defeat a world number one since Australian Jordan Thompson stunned then world number one Andy Murray at Queens in 2017.

Losing To A Lucky Loser

Sonego is the 42nd ranked player in the world and after losing in his qualifying match for the tournament, he was one of the players who were granted “lucky” places in the main draw. Sonego initially failed to qualify for the Vienna Open after losing to Aljaz Bedene in the final qualifying round but with several players pulling out of the event, he was one of those granted outright entry as a “lucky loser”.

It was also only the first time since 2005 that Djokovic has won just three games in a tennis match. The other low came against Marat Safin in the 2005 Australian Open. Since that defeat, Djokovic has won 17 grand slam titles, third most in the history of the sport, and behind only his chief rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal who each have 20.

Six years after that 2005 defeat to Safin, Djokovic earned the first of his current five year-end number 1 rankings. The Serb would also finish 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2018 as the ATP Tour’s top-ranked men’s tennis player. Federer and Nadal also have five year-end no. 1 rankings so achieving his sixth was also extra important for Djokovic.

The Big Four Era

The three are part of the Tennis Big Four, with Britain’s Andy Murray as the fourth. The Big Four existed until 2017 when the four dominated men’s professional tennis. The four held the Top 4 rankings in the sport from 2008 to 2013 and ended the year as Top 4 from 2008 to 2012. From 2007 to 2019, a member of the Big Four has held the year-end top ranking ten times. 58 out of the last 65 men’s major tennis titles have been won by the Big Four, including the 2020 French Open.

The Big Four is now history, with Muray’s decline. But Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic are still the three major forces in men’s tennis. Federer and Nadal have dominated in terms of wining Grand Slams while Djokovic has dominated in terms of consistency and topping the rankings.

Despite the loss, Djokovic still feels that he accomplished what he came for in Austria. He will skip the next schedule on the ATP Tour to retreat to his home. Djokovic is scheduled to return at the ATP Finals which will be held in London for the final time. In that tournament, he will be looking to equal another record- Roger Federer’s six singles ATP Finals title.

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