A Devastating Tragedy: Here’s Why Novak Djokovic lost at the 2020 Vienna Open

The Serb was deeply affected by the death of a top bishop, a major player in the region's politics and religion. He was also an ardent Serb nationalist who took part in protests.

Novak Djokovic 23 - FirstSportz
Novak Djokovic had one of his worst losses ever in the 2020 Vienna Open.

The tennis world was shocked when Novak Djokovic suffered an upset against lucky loser Lorenzo Sonego in the Vienna Open.

The Serb’s statistically worst loss of his career came in the hands of the Italian. Sonego had a dream run and even made it to the finals of the event. Moreover, this was only his third loss in the 2020 season. His other two losses were a default at the US Open and a French Open final thrashing by Rafael Nadal.

Novak Djokovic was a fraction of his former self that day

novak djokovic erste bank open 2 - FirstSportz
Djokovic in action at the Erste Bank Open in October

The world no. 1 was uncharacteristically sloppy at the Vienna court on 30 October, with many errors and tame shots.

After the match, he explained just what was going on in his mind and why his performance was off. On the day of the match, Amfilohije Radovic, an author and top bishop from the Serbian Orthodox Church, passed away due to COVID-19.

Djokovic heard about Radovic’s death hours before the match and explained how it affected him. He said, “To be honest I didn’t want to play today. This sad news has had an effect on me, but obviously not enough to force me not to play.”

“Today [30 October] is a very sad day,” he added. “I had the great honor and privilege of meeting this man, spending time with him, and feeling the beautiful energy he possessed and conveyed. Even if he is no longer with us physically, I am sure that his spirit will still be felt around us for a long time.”

Radovic was a major political figure in the region

radovic - FirstSportz
Amfilohije Radovic

Radovic was a major Serb nationalist and was known to have a lot of political influence. He was an important figure in protests regarding a religious law that allowed the seizure of religious property by the state. Spending much of his life in Montenegro, the 82-year-old made public appearances without a mask on. He contracted COVID-19 in early October and was hospitalized in Montenegro.

On Radovic, Djokovic added, “I think we should remember him with a smile and be grateful for all he has done, especially recently with the political turmoil that has characterized Montenegro. There was a lot at stake, particularly with regard to the church and he was courageous and set an example of how to preserve and cultivate our cultural heritage and all our traditions.”

The Serbian Orthodox Church has over 12 million followers in the world, most of them from Montenegro, Serbia, and neighboring Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Novak Djokovic had entered Vienna with the hopes of securing the year-end world no. 1 position. But his loss against Sonego means that he will now have to wait longer for the formality. He is especially motivated to equal Pete Sampras’ record of six years ending as world no. 1.

The Serb will next be seen at the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals, hoping to clinch the record.

Also read: “As far as player participation is concerned, we are in great shape,” says Tennis Australia CEO after Nadal, Federer and Djokovic submit required Australian Open paperwork