MELBOURNE — The stark reality of an Australian Open third round without Novak Djokovic — for the first time in 11 years — hits home on Saturday when the remaining players in his half of the draw, Rafael Nadal and Milos Raonic among them, attempt to advance to the second week of the tournament.
Djokovic was beaten on Thursday in five sets by wild-card entry Denis Istomin, the earliest that the Serbian star has left Melbourne Park in singles since his first appearance here in 2006 when he was beaten by American Paul Goldstein in the first round.
“What Novak did here is just amazing, six victories here, six titles … so it is not possible to be every time in that situation, no?” Nadal said after his second-round win.
“So then today was probably an accident, that’s all. We are athletes. We know when we are going on court we can lose and we can win.
“It probably was a combination that Denis played a great match and Novak didn’t play his best. When this combination happens, then you are in trouble. Everything can happen. And (it) happened.”
Istomin, meanwhile, plays on. He’s up against 30th-ranked Pablo Carreno Busta on Show Court 2 on Friday.