Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Novak's Shock Leaves Murray on Open Road to Grand Slam Wizardry in Oz; Stunning Exit of Six-Time Winner at Hands of World No117 Gives Scotsman Great Opportunity to Finally Win Title Down under. Paul Newman in Melbourne

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Novak's Shock Leaves Murray on Open Road to Grand Slam Wizardry in Oz; Stunning Exit of Six-Time Winner at Hands of World No117 Gives Scotsman Great Opportunity to Finally Win Title Down under. Paul Newman in Melbourne

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Newman

SPORTING shocks do not get much bigger than this. Denis Istomin's 7-6, 5-7, 2-6, 7-6, 6-4 second-round victory over Novak Djokovic was not only one of the biggest upsets ever at the Australian Open but also one of the most astonishing in Grand Slam history.

Djokovic has won the title here six times in the last nine years and had reached the quarter-finals on the three other occasions.

Although he has had his struggles in the past eight months, suffering early defeats at big tournaments and losing his position at the top of the world rankings, the 29-year-old Serb appeared to be running back into form when he beat Andy Murray in the final of the Qatar Open in the opening week of the new season.

As a consequence Murray and Djokovic had gone into this tournament as joint favourites but in the absence of his greatest rival the Scot will now be the pick of most pundits. Although he has never won the title, having lost in the final five times, this has been the Grand Slam where he has enjoyed the most consistent success.

Murray has also been in superb form since he lost to Djokovic in last year's French Open Final.

He toppled the Serb from the top of the rankings at the end of last year and was on a 28-match unbeaten run until he lost to him in Doha.

Whatever Murray achieves here, Djokovic's defeat -- only the second time in seven years he has lost to a player ranked outside the top 100 -- looks certain to ensure that the Scot will stay at the top of the rankings at least until the early part of the claycourt season.

Djokovic still has many more ranking points to defend in the first three months of this year than the man who replaced him at the top of the tree.

While nobody could be sure that Djokovic had put all his recent troubles behind him, few would have guessed that world No117 Istomin would be the man to inflict the Serb's earliest defeat on these courts since 2006.

The 30-year-old Uzbek has been on the tour for more than 10 years but has only ever reached one final, having won the Nottingham title two years ago. In 33 previous matches against top-10 opponents he had won only once, having beaten David Ferrer, then world No5, at Indian Wells five years.

Istomin has never gone beyond the fourth round in his 35 appearances at Grand Slam tournaments and has never gone beyond the third round here in 10 previous attempts, five of which have ended in first-round defeats. Although he had been a regular member of the world's top 100, Istomin slid down the rankings last year as he won back-toback matches on only two occasions in the wake of some struggles with injuries. He warmed up for this Australian Open -- for which he had earned a wild card by winning an Asia-Pacific play-off tournament -- by playing in a Challenger event in Bangkok, where he lost in the second round to Christian Garin, the world No211. …

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