Novak Djokovic lost for only the third time this year after a listless effort in the Erste Bank Open quarterfinals and walked away happy on Friday. The top-ranked Djokovic lost his first meeting with 42nd-ranked Lorenzo Sonego of Italy 6-2, 6-1. He lacked power in his groundstrokes and produced a string of mistakes. He fell 4-0 behind, and won just five points on Sonego's serve in the opening set.
In the second, Djokovic missed all six break points before conceding his service game for a fifth time when Sonego closed out the win with a passing shot. Despite losing to a lucky loser for the first time, Djokovic was remarkably content.
“I came here with the intention to try to earn more points and secure the No. 1 in the end of the year. I have done that, so I move on, he said. “I am happy, I am pleased, I am healthy, and hopefully I can have a strong finish (at the ATP Finals) in London. I have done what I needed to do and why I came here. I am completely fine with today's result."
Djokovic is expected to head off Rafael Nadal and be the year-end No. 1 again, but he could have clinched it by winning the Vienna indoor hard-court final on Sunday.
Instead, he was looking forward to traveling home to Serbia and not defending his title at the Paris Masters next week. “I would call it a blessing, being a father and being a husband, its the best thing in the world. I am not far from home, so I look forward to that," he said.
His only two previous defeats this year were his disqualification in the U.S. Open fourth round for hitting a line judge with a ball, and in the French Open final to Nadal.
Sonego lost in the final qualifying round to Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia, but was added as a lucky loser to the main draw after several players pulled out with injuries. He hasn’t lost a set.
"For sure it’s the best victory of my life. Novak is the best in the world. Today I played so, so good," Sonego said after his first win over a top-10 player. "It’s unbelievable. It’s amazing."
The Italian also became the first lucky loser to beat the world No. 1 since 2017 when Jordan Thomson stunned Andy Murray at Queens. Sonego will play Grigor Dimitrov or Daniel Evans for a place in Sunday’s final.
Also, Andrey Rublev reached the semifinals, continuing his quest for a record fifth ATP title this season. No. 5-seeded Rublev beat defending champion Dominic Thiem 7-6 (5), 6-2 to set up a semifinal against 2018 champion Kevin Anderson, who defeated Daniil Medvedev 6-4, 7-6 (5).
Rublev held off two break points early against Thiem and won a fast-paced opening set in the tiebreaker. The eighth-ranked Russian dominated the second as Thiem looked hampered by a blister on his right foot.
"I was lucky that Dominic had problems with the feet. We had some great battles in the past," Rublev said. He added that winning two unreal rallies in the tiebreaker shifted the quarterfinal in his favor.