Istomin: 'It Means So Much To Me'

World No. 117 records the biggest win of his career

In an instant, 25 years of hard graft were rewarded when Denis Istomin scored the biggest win of his career over Novak Djokovic, Mr Australian Open. It justified his persistence, dedication and perseverance as a pro.

“It means so much for me, of course, to beat the World No. 2,” said Istomin, following his five-set win on Thursday. “I just I hope that is not the only one victory of mine. I will try to keep going the same way and trying to win some more.”

The World No. 117 never expected to out-perform the six-time champion at Melbourne Park, but he did believe he could compete. “If you don't think that you have a chance, then there is no reason to come onto the court,” the 30-year-old explained. “Of course, I am also working hard, trying to do my best and I did today.”

When asked if someone had said at the beginning of the season that you were going to beat Djokovic at the Australian Open, Istomin admitted, “I would say, ‘Are you crazy or what?’ Especially in five sets, for sure. For me, it was impossible to think that I could hold it together for five sets with Novak, physically and mentally.”

But you don’t get to a career-high No. 33 in the Emirates ATP Rankings (13 August 2012) without talent. However Thursday’s upset will rank in the history books as one of the biggest in the modern era, alongside that of Robin Soderling’s seismic victory over Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros in June 2009.

To put Istomin’s victory into perspective, he’d just won one of his previous 33 matches against Top 10 opposition - over No. 5-ranked David Ferrer at the 2012 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. As Djokovic opened his 2017 season with a Qatar ExxonMobil Open title defence in Doha, the 30-year-old Istomin had already packed his bags following a second-round exit at the Wind Energy Holding Bangkok Open 2017 – an ATP Challenger Tour event. He gained entry into this year’s Australian Open, his 35th major championship appearance, via a wild card invitation.

Yet it could have been so different. With his mother, Klaudiya, who has been his coach since he first picked up a racquet aged five, the amiable Istomin has travelled the globe, but 16 years ago he broke his leg in a car accident whilst travelling to an ITF Futures event in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. It could have jeopardised his future career.

“The doctor didn’t think I was going to play,” said Istomin, who spent three months in hospital and did not touch a racquet for two years. “It was a bad accident, but thanks to my mother, she believed in me. She was always saying, ‘Just keep going and just practise’.”

This evening, after his famous win, his mother simply said, “Good job.”

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