Uzbek Denis Istomin pulled off an Australian Open upset for the ages when he sent reigning champion Novak Djokovic tumbling out of the year’s first grand slam in a near five-hour epic on Thursday.
The 30-year-old world number 117 played the match of his life to hand the six-time champion only his second defeat in seven years at Melbourne Park with a 7-6(8) 5-7 2-6 7-6(5) 6-4 second-round win on Rod Laver Arena.
Istomin let out a huge roar of delight when he ensured Djokovic’s earliest exit from the tournament in more than a decade, the 12-times grand slam champion sending a service return long to end the contest after four hours and 50 minutes.
“First of all I feel sorry for Novak. I was playing so good today,” Istomin said on court.
“I mean, I surprised myself also today. I want to thank my team … who do a good job. Amazing. So much emotion on my mind so I cannot hold it you know but I want to say thanks very much for coming to support me.”
Clinching the fourth on another tiebreaker to send the match into a decider, Istomin grabbed an early break in the fifth and held his nerve to deliver a famous victory.
“I mean it was tough, since third set I get cramping in my leg so I don’t know how I hold it,” he added. “But I was physically normal today.”
After the biggest win of his career, Istomin moves onto a third-round meeting with Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta
RAONIC RACES INTO THIRD ROUND
Third seed Milos Raonic continued his machine-like advance through the Australian Open, easing past Gilles Muller 6-3 6-4 7-6(4) to reach the third round.
The big-serving Canadian, a semifinalist at Melbourne Park last year, was clinical on a sun-bathed Margaret Court Arena, firing 21 aces and breaking the serve-volleyer from Luxembourg once in each of the first two sets.
Left-hander Muller, who celebrated his maiden ATP title in Sydney earlier this month in his 17th year as a professional, saved a match point in the decisive tiebreak but fired a forehand into the tramlines to bow out.
Raonic will next play French 25th seed Gilles Simon for a place in the fourth round.