Huge surprise, world number 1 Novak Djokovic was knocked out in the third round of the Masters 1000 in Indian Wells (California, United States) on Monday, by the young Luca Nardi (20 years old), only 123rd player in the world. In the cool night air of the Californian desert, it was encouraged by the entire public that the Italian slammed the winning ace on Monday evening, before falling directly into the arms of his clan in the stands.

Winner 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, the young Italian pushed towards the exit Djokovic (36 years old), emperor of tennis at the 24 Grand Slams, who sits on a poster in his room. “Congratulations to him, especially in the third set he played great tennis. I didn’t know him well but I had watched a few videos and I saw that he had quality tennis,” commented Djokovic, who appeared disillusioned at the press conference. “I was rather surprised by my level, very poor. This is a negative result for me. I helped him play well, I made horrible unforced errors, I played defensive tennis, hit the ball badly in the 3rd set. He was more aggressive than me.

The Serb’s place as world number 1 is not threatened by this failure, he who had no point to defend at Indian Wells where he had not played since 2019, missing several editions due to not wanting to be vaccinated against Covid-19. This early setback, however, sends Djokovic back to a mixed start to the year, after losing in the semi-final of the Australian Open in January. He had not played again since and will therefore have won only one match in California on Saturday. “I’m playing fewer tournaments, I’m more selective, so it’s not a good feeling at all to lose so early. I haven’t won a title yet this year, I’m not used to it, but that’s how it is. I’m going to move on,” said the man who must head to Miami for the Masters 1000 which begins next week.

“I have been in a negative cycle for three or four tournaments where I have not played at my best level,” admitted the Serb, annoyed during the meeting by several incidents of play. The Nardi tournament, on the other hand, turns into a tale of fairies, for him who was eliminated in qualifying by the Belgian David Goffin last week. As luck would have it, the Italian was then drafted directly in the 2nd round as a “lucky loser” to replace the Argentine Tomas Martin Etcheverry, who was withdrawn. Nardi beat China’s Zhang Zhizhen on Saturday to earn the right to challenge his idol. He now has a meeting with American Tommy Paul in the round of 16 on Wednesday.