By Binoo K. John
Novak Djokovic has taken his second round defeat to wildcard Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan rather stoically, saying that he will not think too much about it. But his defeat suggests the new order of world tennis is taking shape and the current Big Five had better watch out.
"It's not a time now to go so deep into it. I didn't reflect on that at all at this stage. I started a new season, a new year," Djokovic told a press conference at the media centre of the Australian Open.
Djokovic had till now lost only a set to Istomin in their five earlier encounters, but on a beautiful Thursday evening at the Rod Laver Arena, the Uzbek surprised himself and the game's followers with his 7-6, 5-7, 2-6, 7-6, 6-4 upset of the world No. 2.
The 30-year-old Istomin, who travels with his mother who has overseen his career mostly as a journeyman, now ranked 117, did not have enough words to describe his victory, and naturally so.
But Djokovic was gracious enough to say that Istomin played "obviously above his level" and that whenever he needed he came up with the big serve. The match lasted four hours and 48 minutes, but Djokovic said that "we didn't seem to be tired".
"Of course, four-and-a-half hours is not easy on the body. But still I don't think that has affected me or my opponent. You know, one guy beats the other guy. That's all I can say," Djokovic commented.
The second-ranked tennis superstar was smiling all the time but shrugged his shoulders to most questions, not wanting any deeper analysis -- or any proposition about a dark future to be made.
There was very little to differentiate between Djokovic and Istomin in a match that will have tennis experts analysing for a long time. Every expert here is waiting for a chance to spot chinks in the Serbian's armour but a study of the detailed stats does not seem to throw up any big defects that would need a root canal surgery.
Djoko served 14 aces to Istomin's 17, but Djoko unusually made nine double faults to only three from his opponent. Istomin's fastest serve was 200 kmph while Djoko was not far behind with 194 kmph. Istomin's forehand had pinpoint accuracy, and power to match, and cracked 29 forehand winners to his opponent's 20.
Djokovic brushed aside a question of an emerging vulnerability in his game and said that no one would play against him if they thought they would surely lose. When asked if he was determined to lift the Australian Open next year he said, "Let's see."
What is worrying Djoko fans is that the emerging order in world tennis is knocking at the doors of the big five and the upset, first of Krygios and now Djokovic, shows that a churn is happening in world tennis. Federer is not in top form after his long layoff and now the semi-final line-up could look like a training ground for upstarts.