A year of turmoil for Novak Djokovic has come full circle after his sorry elimination from the French Open at the hands of Dominic Thiem at the quarter-final stage.
Fighting for a potential semi-final showdown with Rafael Nadal, Djokovic offered a stunningly lacklustre performance against the young Austrian, falling to a 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 6-0 defeat. Thiem clinched a gruelling opening set with a tie breaker but the former world number one fell away dramatically in the second and lost seven games in a row as the 23-year-old stormed into his second straight semi-final in Paris.
Djokovic passed up two set points in the opener with his usually reliable backhand letting him down as Thiem fought back to force the tie break.
In all, the Serbian recorded 35 unforced errors, hitting just 18 winners and even moved sluggishly across the court as he chased his opponent, struggling to deal with the youngster's power as he eased into control.
Djokovic's physical and mental vulnerability was then exposed perhaps more vividly than ever before in the third set as Thiem stormed to the win without dropping a game, as his once all-conquering opponent relinquished the last of his titles.
Djokovic celebrated the title at Roland Garros last year, becoming the first man in almost 25 years to win a fourth consecutive major championship. But he has since been on a downward trajectory that has seen him fail to add another major to his haul of 12 and relinquish his status as the best tennis player on the planet.
The Serbian was eliminated by Sam Querry at Wimbledon after his 2016 success in France but suffered a first round defeat to Juan Martin del Potro at the Rio Olympics, his first opening round defeat since 2009.
At the US Open, he was defeated in the final by Stanislas Wawrinka and his fall from grace in 2016 was complete when he was replaced at the summit of the ATP rankings by Andy Murray.
His start to 2017 offered no improvement, falling to world number 117 Dennis Istomin in the second round in Melbourne. Ahead of the French Open, the 30-year-old enlisted the services of one of the game's greats in Andre Agassi to address the alarming slump in form, but his struggles have grown further ahead of the coming grass-court season.
That 6-0 defeat in the third was the first time the 12-time grand slam champion had lost a set to love in a grand slam since the US Open in 2005, prompting John McEnroe to suggest the former champion was guilty of 'tanking' during his commentary duties for Eurosport.
"It looks right now as if Djokovic doesn't want to be on the court," McEnroe commented. "This is tank city."
While Djokovic toiled, Nadal enjoyed a far more comfortable afternoon, sealing his place in the semi-finals in just 50 minutes after his opponent Pablo Carreño Busta was forced to retire due to an abdominal injury.