Coach Patrick Mouratoglou thinks Novak Djokovic was under immense pressure at the Australian Open and suggests that the pressure may have gotten so overwhelming to the point where it got unbearable for the Serb and led to one of the most shocking Grand Slam performances of his career.
On Friday, record 10-time Australian Open champion Djokovic suffered his first loss at Melbourne Park since 2018 after losing to Sinner 6-1 6-2 6-7 (6) 6-3. For 36-year-old Djokovic, the loss to Sinner was also his first-ever defeat in the Australian Open semifinal stage.
After a bit shaky start to the tournament and clinching four-set wins over Dino Prizmic and Alexei Popyrin, Djokovic earned straight-set wins in his next two matches. After beating Tomas Martin Etcheverry in straight sets, Djokovic also destroyed Adrian Mannarino 6-0 6-0 6-3.
When addressing Djokovic's loss to Sinner, Serena Williams' ex-coach Mouratoglou made a very interesting observation and something that he noticed during the Serb's match against Mannarino.
“When Djokovic played against Mannarino he was up 6-0, 6-0, 1-0. He played a bad game, and he lost the game,” Mouratoglou said on Tennis Majors' "Eye of the Coach."
“What struck me was what he said after the match: ‘It was too much pressure to not lose one single game. I had to give away one.’ He didn’t do it on purpose, but he felt the pressure was too big.”
Mouratoglou on Djokovic's loss: Maybe he'll feel relieved after this
After becoming a Grand Slam champion at the 2008 Australian Open, Djokovic became the most successful player in the history of the opening Grand Slam of the season. At the Australian Open, Djokovic owns a perfect 10-10 record in his finals played. Before losing to Sinner, Djokovic also enjoyed a perfect 10-10 record in his semifinals at Melbourne Park.
Going into this year's Australian Open, Djokovic - who hadn't lost at Melbourne Park since 2018 - was again considered the No. 1 favorite for the Australian Open title, to the point where some started claiming that the Serb was practically unbeatable at Melbourne Park. Also, the fact that Djokovic made four Grand Slam finals last year and won three Majors put more pressure on him to deliver at this year's Australian Open.
“Now, when you think about Novak at the Australian Open, he didn’t lose one match at the Australian Open since 2018,” Mouratoglou added.
“He never lost a semi-final at the Australian Open. He won 10 titles here. In a way, it brought so much pressure. Imagine he would win again, that would be crazy. That’s too much.
“Of course, he didn’t do it on purpose, for sure not. But subconsciously, he wanted to take it out of the way. ‘OK, let’s lose one. It’s just too much for me. I can’t anymore.’
“Kind of the same feeling as the one he had against Mannarino. The fact that he said that against Mannarino makes me feel that there is something there.
“Even in champions, when it’s too much pressure, sometimes they need to fail. In a way they feel relieved. I would not be surprised if Novak feels relieved after that tournament.”
Mouratoglou: Djokovic wasn't there
Djokovic's loss to Sinner was surprising in many ways as the Serb is usually the one who makes strong starts to the biggest Slam matches and sends an early statement. But in the opening two sets of the Australian Open semifinal against Sinner, Djokovic looked helpless on the court.
Sinner started the match in a fast way, breaking Djokovic in the second and sixth games en route to winning the opener with just one lost game. In the second set, Sinner claimed two more breaks of serve - again without dropping a single service game - to easily go up by two sets.
In the third set, Djokovic saved the lone break point of the set in the first game, before the set went into a tie-break. In the third-set tie-break, Djokovic faced a match point when Sinner was 6-5 up but the Serb survived after winning the next three points to send the match into a fourth set.
After Djokovic won a tight third set and saved a match point, there was some hope that it could be the game-changer. But nothing really changed as Djokovic's struggles continued and Sinner closed out the match in four sets after breaking the Serb in the fourth game of the fourth set.
For the first time in Djokovic's career, he didn't have a single break point chance in a completed Grand Slam match.
“During this semi-final, Djokovic played a match that was one of the worst I’ve seen from him. He wasn’t there. He was definitely not on that court on that day. He was slow, no energy, no enthusiasm," Mouratoglou said.
“Even his attitude that is always so angry, even when he is winning, when there are pressure moments, he gets angry, he shouts at his box. He was flat, completely flat against Sinner. He was just missing everything."
In his post-match press conference, Djokovic said it was "one of the worst matches" he ever played at the Grand Slam level.