‘My level was really, really bad’: Novak Djokovic stunned by ‘lucky loser’ Luca Nardi at Indian Wells

‘My level was really, really bad’: Novak Djokovic stunned by ‘lucky loser’ Luca Nardi at Indian Wells - Sports - News

The Surprising Defeat of Novak Djokovic by Unranked Italian Player Luca Nardi at the BNP Paribas Open

Novak Djokovic, the world’s top-ranked tennis player, experienced a shocking defeat at the hands of Italy’s Luca Nardi in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells on Monday. The unranked Nardi, who only entered the tournament as a lucky loser after losing in the qualifying rounds to David Goffin, secured an impressive 6-4 3-6 6-3 victory against Djokovic.

A lucky loser slot is awarded to players who lose in the qualifying phase and fill in the main draw as a replacement for injured players who withdraw before the first round. Nardi took full advantage of his opportunity, having previously defeated China’s Zhang Zhizhen in the second round of the main draw. This victory marked a significant milestone for Nardi as he became the lowest-ranked player to defeat Djokovic in an ATP Masters 1000 or grand slam event. Furthermore, Nardi is now the fourth lowest-ranked player to ever defeat a reigning world No. 1 at an ATP Masters 1000 tournament.

Following his loss, Djokovic was highly critical of his own performance while also acknowledging Nardi’s deserving victory. “He got in as a lucky loser to the main draw, so he really didn’t have anything to lose,” Djokovic stated. “So he played great. Deserved to win. I was more surprised with my level. My level was really, really bad.” Djokovic had not competed since losing to another young Italian player, Jannik Sinner, in the semifinals of the Australian Open back in January.

Having previously struggled past Aleksandar Vukic in his opening match of the tournament, Djokovic never seemed to find his footing against Nardi. A tight first set was eventually won by the 20-year-old Italian, and while Djokovic managed to level the match in the second set, he couldn’t keep up with Nardi in the final set.

Despite his defeat, Djokovic expressed concern about his form during the 2024 season, stating “No titles this year. That’s not something I’m used to. I was starting the season most of my career with a Grand Slam win or a Dubai win or any tournament. It is part of the sport. You just have to accept it.” He added, “I guess every trophy that eventually comes my way is going to be great. Obviously, to break the kind of negative cycle a little bit I’m having in the last three, four tournaments where I haven’t really been close to my best.”

Nardi was understandably overwhelmed by his victory, expressing disbelief at holding his nerve during the tense finish. “I don’t know [how I held my nerve],” Nardi stated. “I think it is a miracle, because I am a 20-year-old guy, 100 in the world, and beating Novak. It’s crazy.” Nardi will now face the US’ Tommy Paul in the next round.