There may be no more surprising loss in tennis this year than the one Novak Djokovic just suffered at the Australian Open. That tournament has been Djokovic's domain over his career. He has won six of them so far—including five of the last six—one fewer than Rod Laver's record. But Thursday morning, he fell in five sets to Denis Istomin, a wildcard who entered the tournament as the 117th ranked player in the world.
"On any given day you can lose," Djokovic said. "Nothing is impossible."
Still, this is shocking. Djokovic is an all-time great and no one has ever heard of Istomin. He barely got into the draw altogether. Istomin was 8-22 in 2016. His entry itself was fortunate, ESPN explains:
Istomin gained his way into this major only via a wild-card berth. Before this tournament, he had only $860 in earnings this year. That's it. At 30, he's one year older than Djokovic, but he was still bouncing between $50,000 Challenger tournaments and the ATP main tour, where he has won only one career title.
"I feel sorry for Novak," Istomin said after the match, "I was playing so good."
Djokovic lost in the kind of marathon match he has become synonymous with and dominant in. This one lasted four hours and 48 minutes. It's been a year of change for Djokovic already. He parted with longtime coach Boris Becker last month and lost his No. 1 spot in the world to Andy Murray. Now there's this.
Perhaps nothing was more interesting after the match than Djokovic's answer to this question: Does he think that other players now believe he's beatable?