MADRID — On Wednesday May 9th, Djokovic lost in the second round of the Madrid Open to Kyle Edmund of Britain, 6-3, 2-6, 6-3. Edmund had not won a set against Djokovic in three previous matches. The defeat was particularly disappointing for Djokovic after he had a confidence-building start to the Madrid tournament, beating Kei Nishikori in straight sets in the first round on Monday. It was Djokovic’s first victory over a top-20 opponent in almost a year.
But Nishikori has been struggling to overcome a serious wrist injury, and Edmund, 23, is a player on the rise. His own confidence has been lifted since he reached the semifinals of the Australian Open and took over as Britain’s top-ranked player in March, while Andy Murray remains sidelined by injury. Edmund also arrived in Madrid after winning a doubles title on clay last week at the Estoril Open in Portugal. He entered the tournament with a career-high ranking of No. 22.
After the match, Djokovic praised Edmund for playing “the best tennis of his life,” but also acknowledged that “there are obvious things that are not working well for me.”
He contrasted Edmund’s risk-taking — the ability to be “courageous enough to attack the balls when it mattered” — with the way he dealt with some of the pivotal points in the match, particularly in the final set.
After winning the second set comfortably by twice breaking Edmund’s serve, Djokovic appeared to have regained the momentum. In the fifth game of the final set, he had three break points, but Edmund recovered from 0-40 down, thanks to two solid serves and a mistake from Djokovic.
At 3-4, Edmund shanked a backhand return, but his high ball somehow landed on the line. With plenty of time to prepare his shot, Djokovic hit wide what seemed destined to be a straightforward backhand winner. He then raised his arms and stared in disbelief at the spot on the line where Edmund’s shot had landed.
Two shots later, Djokovic gifted Edmund another break point with a mishit forehand. He lost the next point with another wayward forehand, allowing Edmund to serve for the match at 5-3. Edmund celebrated his win after another unforced error from Djokovic, who hit his backhand return long from a second serve.
Djokovic, 30, was philosophical about his early exit from Madrid, putting it in the context of a career in which he has at times appeared unassailable, collecting 68 titles along the way.
“I’ve played this sport so many years and had a bunch of success,” he said. “At the same time, you know, nobody is forcing me to play this sport. I do it because I like it, I want to do it. And that’s something also that makes me fortunate, you know, to play the sport as long as I love the sport, I’ll keep going. And that’s all it is.”