As 2023 draws to a close and the southern hemisphere summer heat begins to engulf Melbourne, all eyes shift to the Land Down Under for the first Grand Slam of 2024. But something that has become a staple at the Rod Laver Arena are upsets. If the Aussie Open has taught us anything over the years, it is to expect the unexpected.
This year, a popular online sportsbook has made Novak Djokovic the overwhelming +125 favorite for success. However, even the Serbian maestro isn’t immune to having his system shocked, as proven in this year’s Wimbledon final. The 36-year-old was aiming to become champion at the All-England Club for a record-equaling eighth time.
However, he was upset by 20-year-old Spanish star Carlos Alcaraz, who proved to his new rival and the sporting public that the future is now. But it isn’t just the recent Centre Court showpiece where Nole has been stunned. He, too, has been eliminated at the Aussie Open over the years.
With that said, here are the biggest shocks to have ever happened at the Australian Open.
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Michael McDonald beats Rafael Nadal 2023
Heading into the 2023 Australian Open, Spanish great Rafael Nadal headed into the competition as the reigning champion. However, as his nemesis Novak Djokovic wasn’t allowed to participate in the 2022 edition of the tournament, he headed down under with a point to prove. Could he prove once and for all that he was the greatest of all time, or would it be his Serbian rival?
Unfortunately for tennis fans the world over, the pair never got the chance to square off on Melbourne’s famed hard courts. That’s because the Spaniard was dumped out early by unranked American Michael McDonald. After breezing past Britain’s Jack Draper in the opening round, many expected a similarly dominant win for Nadal in this second-round encounter. However, he couldn’t even pick up a set as his 28-year-old opponent secured a straight sets victory in perhaps the most shocking upset of them all.
Djokovic meanwhile? Of course, he went on to lift the trophy, tying Nadal’s all-time Grand Slam haul of 22 and definitely settling the greatest of all-time debate once and for all.
Denis Istomin beats Novak Djokovic 2017
But as we mentioned earlier, while Djokovic may well have secured his legacy with his triumph earlier this year, he too has suffered a humiliating defeat at the Australian Open.
In 2017, he entered the tournament as the defending champion, world number two, and the heavy favorite to lift the trophy for a third consecutive year. When he walked onto the court at the Rod Laver Arena wearing his trademark ‘Uniqlo’ shirt, every fan expected him to add another title. But Denis Istomin had other ideas.
The Uzbeki star played the match of his career. He never let Djokovic settle down and put him under pressure with brutal groundstrokes, bossing the Serbian defending champion around the court for five grueling sets in a match that lasted over five hours. In the end, Istomin’s power game proved too much for Djokovic to handle, ultimately succumbing to defeat and a loss that marked his earliest exit from the tournament in almost a decade.
Mikhail Zverev beats Andy Murray 2017
Djokovic wasn’t the only star to suffer an early exit that year. Back then, much less was known about Andy Murray’s hip injury compared to what we now know… an injury that would all but end his time as a slam contender in the tennis world.
Almost seven years ago, he entered the competition as the world number one, and a fourth-round encounter against Mikhail Zverev was supposed to be an easy task en route to perhaps his first success Down Under.
The German player tirelessly battled against the Scottish star and pulled away in the third and fourth sets, eventually winning by three sets to one. While many would have attributed Murray’s early exit to his hip injury, no one should take anything away from Zverev, who displayed an incredible performance that day to knock out the top seed and favorite.
With both him and Djokovic suffering early exits, Roger Federer would roll back the years to lift the trophy, a trophy he would successfully defend the following year.
Andreas Seppi beats Roger Federer 2015
Speaking of Roger Federer, he knows only too well that anyone can be humbled in Melbourne. Back in 2015 – before Djokovic and Nadal powered to countless more slams – the Swiss Superman was considered the greatest tennis player that had ever lived.
Roger Federer’s 2015 Australian Open came to an abrupt conclusion on Friday at the Rod Laver Arena. Unseeded Andreas Seppi upset the Swiss star in Melbourne 6-4, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-6 (5).
His powers had begun to wane somewhat as demonstrated by his last major victory coming in 2012 at Wimbledon. However, he should have still had plenty in the tank to knock off veteran Andreas Seppi in the third round at Melbourne.
The 34-year-old had never beaten Federer in any of their previous meetings. However, on this occasion, Seppi came back stronger each time, and his relentless determination gave him the edge he needed to claim the victory, defeating the formerly considered GOAT in four sets. This was the first time in 12 years that Federer had lost to a player ranked outside the top 30 in a Grand Slam event.