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Istomin achieves mission 'impossible' with Djokovic win

Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - 19/1/17 Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin celebrates after winning his Men's singles second round match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic. REUTERS/Issei Kato
Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - 19/1/17 Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin celebrates after winning his Men's singles second round match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic. REUTERS/Issei Kato

By Nick Mulvenney

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Exhausted by a near five-hour contest, Denis Istomin struggled to formulate his thoughts following his stunning upset of Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open.

The 30-year-old Uzbek still had enough awareness to know he had done something pretty special, however.

For a world number 117 to beat the reigning champion in the second round of a grand slam was one thing, but to down the famously resilient Serb over five sets was bordering on the realms of fantasy.

"It is unreal," he told reporters. "To beat Novak in five sets, it's a great win. I didn't expect what I'm doing now and what I did on the court. "I like the way I am playing. I feel just tired. I'm not thinking that I won against the number two in the world."

The former world number 33 who was forced to play an Asia-Pacific wildcard tournament just to get to the Australian Open after slumping out of the top 100 for the first time since 2010 on the back of a string of injuries last year.

To think then that just a few weeks later he would be in the third round after beating a six-times Australian Open champion was simply incredible, he said.

"I would have said, 'Are you crazy or what?'," the 30-year-old said.

"Especially in five sets, for sure. For me, was impossible to think that I can hold it five sets with Novak, physically and mentally. So I did well today.

"It means so much for me, of course, to beat the world number two. I just... hope it's not only one victory of mine. I'm trying to keep going same way and trying to win some more."

Istomin was watched from the stands by his mother Klaudiya, who has coached him throughout his career.

"She said 'Good job'," he revealed with a grin.

"Thanks to my mother, she was always believing in me. She was always saying, 'Just keep going and just practice'."

Before his stunning performance on Rod Laver Arena, Istomin was probably best known for his distinctive fluorescent glasses, which on Thursday he matched with a similarly bright yellow bandana.

"It's stylish, you know," he said. "I try to do the bandana and glasses same colour. Just looks better."

Istomin's previous two runs to the Melbourne third round were ended by Djokovic and he said would be focusing as much as possible on recovery before facing Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta on Saturday.

"First of all, I need to recover from this match because it's five hours," he said. "It's a lot. On this level, it's tough. I don't think about the win now. I have to concentrate on the next match and just preparing."

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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