Unceremoniously eliminated by Jannik Sinner in the semi‐final of the Australian Open, the world number one sank in the Californian evening, facing another Italian, much less known: Luca Nardi, 123rd in the world. Also beaten by Alex de Minaur in the quarter-finals of the United Cup at the beginning of January, the Serb has still not even played in a final this year. Far from his usual standards. “I have been in a negative cycle for three or four tournaments where I have not played at my best level,” he conceded at a press conference. After five years of inadmissibility because he was not vaccinated against Covid-19, Novak Djokovic was not there in the Coachella Valley. Sunday, for his entry into contention against the Australian Aleksandar Vukic, 69th in the world, he had conceded a set and had already appeared far from his best level.

His three-set defeat (4−6, 6–3, 3–6) against Nardi is undoubtedly one of the worst hiccups of his immense career. The Game, Set and Maths account has listed its (rare) defeats against players ranked higher than 100th in the world. We can consider that the setback against Denis Istomin, then 117th in the world in the 2nd round of the 2017 Australian Open (7-6 (10/8), 5-7, 2-6, 7-6 (7/5) 6-3) remains one of his most staggering defeats in his garden in Melbourne where he was crowned ten times. And this fiasco against the Uzbek remains his only Grand Slam defeat against a player outside the top 100. It must be said that the native of Belgrade was going through a very bad patch at the time. At Indian Wells, already, in his very complicated period, Nole had suffered a hiccup against Taro Daniel, 109th in the world in the 2nd round, the following year in 2018. While he led 5-2 in the first set and 5- 3 in the second, he finally lost 7-6 (3), 4-6 and 6-1 after 2 hours and 32 minutes of play.

Against the young 20-year-old Italian, the Serb only managed to break twice and only passed 60% of his first balls. “I was rather surprised by my level, very poor,” he noted at a press conference. And even if he hit rock bottom this Monday – a defeat with no consequences on his position as world number 1 since he had no points to defend in Indian Wells – we will have to wait a little before talking about the start of a decline of the man with 24 Grand Slam titles…

Italy definitely does not succeed in any case. Since it is only the second time in his career that he has lost against a lucky loser (player drafted after qualifying) after Lorenzo Sonego (Vienna 2020).

SEE ALSO – Rafael Leão’s magnificent goal with AC Milan against Atalanta on February 25 (1-1)