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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, October 30, 2020

Lorenzo Sonego

Lucky loser Lorenzo Sonego stunned world No. 1 Novak Djokovic 6-2, 6-1 scoring the biggest win of his career to roar into the Vienna semifinals.

Photo credit: Erste Bank Open Facebook

The lucky loser was wondrous winner.

Cracking his forehand with fearless ambition and moving with purpose, lucky loser Lorenzo Sonego shocked world No. 1 Novak Djokovic 6-2, 6-1 roaring into the first ATP 500-level semifinal of his career in Vienna.

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Sonego smacked eight aces and saved all six points he faced in a near-flawless 68-minute triumph that left him almost speechless afterward.

“For sure it is the best victory of my life,” Sonego told the cheering crowd. “Novak is the best in the world. Today I played so, so good.

“I like this tournament. I like the conditions here. It’s unbelievable. It’s amazing. I don’t know what to say.”

It marks the first time a lucky loser has defeated Djokovic and the first time a lucky loser has topped a world No. 1 since Jordan Thompson surprised Andy Murray in the opening round of the 2017 Queen’s Club.

Winless in three prior meetings vs. Top 10 opponents, Sonego broke serve five times against a lethargic Djokovic, who couldn’t match the 42nd-ranked Italian’s intensity.

Djokovic, who denied a set point out-dueling buddy Filip Krajinovic 7-6(6), 6-3 in his opener then fended off four set points subduing Borna Coric 7-6(11), 6-3 on Wednesday, didn’t come close to attaining the lofty level he typically brings in suffering just his third loss of the season.

Truth be told, the top-seeded Serbian, who has virtually sewn up his sixth year-end world No. 1 ranking to match his tennis hero Pete Sampras’ record, didn’t deliver the same desire his pumped-up opponent brought in dropping to 39-3 on the season.

None of that mattered much to Sonego, who has not dropped a set reaching his biggest semifinal. It's a stirring turnaround for the lanky Italian, who carried 3-10 record into Roland Garros last month then caught fire reaching his first Grand Slam fourth round in Paris.

Today, the Turin-born baseliner played bold and dragged Djokovic around the court at times with crackling forehand strikes.

“I played the best match of my life,” a smiling Sonego told the crowd after apologizing for his “very, very bad” English.

Djokovic got off to a sluggish start missing successive forehands to gift the opening-game break. The 42nd-ranked Italian backed up the break at 30 for 2-0.

The top seed was flatfooted as her jerked a backhand wide and sailed a forehand dropping serve for the second time in a row.

While Djokovic was erratic, Sonego was explosive.

Showing no trace of nerve, Sonego slashed his third ace closing the 32-minute opening set in style. The lanky Italian cracked 11 winners while Djokovic clanked 13 unforced errors in the set.

A deflated Djokovic couldn’t quite elevate his energy level slapping a shot into the net to drop serve for the third time to start the second set.

Serving in the fourth game, Sonego dodged a pair of break points, including catching a break when the Serbian’s forehand pass skipped across the tape and skidded wide.

Emitting a delayed grunt after striking heavy groundstrokes, Sonego, who bears a slight facial resemblance to Karate Kid star Ralph Macchio, showed his spirit for the fight saving a third break point while working through a hard-fought hold for 3-1.

The eight-time Australian Open champion tried to mix it up attacking net only to see Sonego strike a jolting running pass down the line. Sonego’s fourth break of the day put him ahead 4-1.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion earned triple break point in the sixth game, but Sonego stood tall hammering a forehand down the line and smacking an ace to help him draw even at deuce. Djokovic spun a forehand wide giving the Italian game point.

In the most electric exchange of the match, a sprinting Sonego flicked back a smash then ran down a Djokovic drop volley soaring for a smash of his own at net for an emphatic exclamation point hold for 5-1. That frenetic face-to-face exchange helped Sonego seal his biggest win and drained any remaining desire from Djokovic.

Bumping a backhand volley into net, Djokovic faced match point. Sonego smacked a forehand pass then thrust his arms toward the sky completing a 68-minute triumph with a scream to the appreciative crowd.

The 25-year-old Sonego improved to 10-12 on the season and will face either Grigor Dimitrov or Dan Evans for a spot in the final.


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