Indian Wells Masters 2024: Djokovic sinks against Nardi, 123rd in the world | Tennis | Sports

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He came back, saw and lost. Novak Djokovic’s time in Indian Wells lasted the blink of an eye, witnessing a more than surprising episode this morning. The number one, who had not competed in the Californian desert since 2019, lost against all odds against the Italian Luca Nardi; one who, little less, passed by there. Absolute unknown. The 123rd in the world, 20 years old and caught at the last minute for the tournament, would never have imagined that life would offer him such an opportunity, a thunderbolt (6-4, 3-6 and 6-3 in 2h 22m) that from now on appears as one of the historical stains in the Serbian’s career. Until now, the South African Kevin Anderson —Miami 2008, as 122nd— was the executioner of the Balkan with the ranking lower in big tournaments. He had already suffered Nole in the premiere on Sunday – he lost a set against Alexander Vukic – and this time he did not make the cut: unrecognizable, he headed for the exit quickly.

“This is not the best of feelings. Falling so soon and especially here, where she hadn’t played for so long… She wanted to do well. Maybe it’s because I haven’t played for almost two months, or because it’s been a long time since I’ve played here,” the man from Belgrade, who has officially started the season uphill, tried to reason. He fell in January in his Australian lair—semifinals, against another Italian, Jannik Sinner—and in his comeback, a bigger blow. “I congratulate. I didn’t know much about him, but I had seen him play. He has quality from deep, especially with his right foot, and he moves well. He had nothing to lose. He deserves it,” he continued. “But I am very surprised with my level. It was very bad. He has talent, but I have helped him play well. The two things have come together: he has had a great day, and I have had a very bad one. I made serious mistakes and in the third set I was very defensive, he didn’t go for the ball. “It was a very poor performance on my part,” said the king of the circuit.

Djokovic returned to the scene in the same way he left it a month and a half ago, when he lost against Sinner. He could then find justification in the magnitude of the rival, but that afternoon in Melbourne he also proposed an inanimate version without mordant. Winner of three majors last year, undisputed leader of the circuit – 1,715 points ahead of the virtual pursuer, Sinner, and 1,820 over Carlos Alcaraz from Murcia – and collector of records and more records, he has not started 2024 well and the present requires a change of direction. “I haven’t won any titles yet this year, and it’s not something I’m used to. But this is part of the sport. You must accept it. I hope to break this negative streak,” he commented after offering a minimal performance, in tow for most of the duel and strangely erratic for the rest, his specialty. Forced to put out fires all the time against an adversary that grew.

“I think that until today, no one knew me. I hope the public enjoyed it,” said Nardi, who lost against David Goffin in the preview and then, due to one of those caroms, was re-elected to complete the main draw of the tournament. He is, specifically, the sixth player outside the top-100 who beats a number one in the history of the Masters 1000 – a category created in 1990, the second in importance after the majors—; another of those young people who grew up admiring the Balkan, of whom he has a poster in his room. “I think it’s a miracle, I’m 20 years old and I don’t know how I’ve controlled my nerves. I beat Novak, this is crazy,” processes the young Italian, who until now had only achieved three wins on the ATP circuit, none this season. Few indications about him, a product of the prolific youth of his country, although in November of last year he gained access to the promising Masters Cup and in the only fight against a top-10 that he had played until now, forced Stefanos Tsitsipas (Astana 2022) into a double tiebreaker.

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