Djokovic suffers first defeat in Australia for six years as wrist 'discomfort' continues

World No 1 defeated 6-4, 6-4 by Alex De Minaur in the United Cup to end 43-match winning run

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After six years and 43 matches, Novak Djokovic finally lost in Australia.

The Serbian has made this part of the season in this part of the world his own playground; in the time since Djokovic last tasted defeat Down Under, in the fourth round of the 2018 Australian Open, the world No 1 has reeled off four of his record 10 Australian Open titles, collected a smattering of warm-up trophies, and gone undefeated when representing Serbia in team events.

The only year in that time he went trophyless and failed to add to his record was in 2022 when he was deported at the end of his infamous Covid vaccine saga. Only the Australian government was capable of halting the Djokovic juggernaut.

And, now, Alex de Minaur. The pair had met once before, almost 12 months ago at the Australian Open, but even with the home crowd behind him, De Minaur was utterly dominated by the eventual champion.

Quite clearly, there was very little scar tissue from that experience when the world No 12 strode on to the court in Perth. Many players shy away from the challenge of facing Djokovic but a player nicknamed "Demon" for his speed and tenacity is not one of them.

"When you go up against Novak you have to go out and enjoy it and back yourself, and no matter what, keep fighting until the end," the Australian said on court after his deserved 6-4, 6-4 victory in the United Cup team event. "Today was my day and I’m happy that I was able to get the win."

De Minaur is one of the fastest players on the ATP Tour and possesses exceptional movement, but his lack of big weapons has left him short when up against the game's elite players. That was not the case on Wednesday when he outserved and out-rallied Djokovic, bringing a new level of aggression to his game that had not previously been seen.

He won 33 of 34 points on first serve and never gave Djokovic a look at break point; by contrast, De Minaur gave himself five chances to break the Djokovic serve and took two of them, one in each set.

“I’m here to prove a lot of people wrong and to try and get better," said De Minaur. "Ultimately I won’t be the biggest or the strongest. I will show I have variety in my game and I’m glad I could bring this level today.”

It was a day that belonged to De Minaur, but naturally, a Djokovic defeat, particularly in Australia, is going to get magnified – even more so when the first Grand Slam of the season is just 10 days away.

The most obvious reason for the Serb's below-standard display is a wrist injury. Djokovic admitted after his previous win over the Czech Republic's Jiri Lehecka that he is "managing" the issue, and it was clear the 36-year-old was struggling physically.

After holding for a 4-3 lead in the first set, Djokovic called for the trainer to get the injury assessed and again two games later. The hope now for the world No 1 is that the injury isn't severe enough to disrupt his bid for an 11th Australian Open title.

“I have had discomfort for two days," Djokovic said. "During yesterday's match and today's match especially, it got worse, but I don't want to spend too much time on this and take away from Alex's victory. Now I will try to recover for the Australian Open. I think it will be fine by then.”

Despite this setback, Djokovic remains the overwhelming favourite to add to his men's record haul of 24 Grand Slam trophies when the tour makes its way to Melbourne Park. All winning streaks in sports come to an end at some point; few would put it past Djokovic to simply start another one.

Updated: January 03, 2024, 1:46 PM