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

Novak Djokovic was stunned by world No. 123 Luca Nardi in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells on Monday as the Italian secured a remarkable 6-4 3-6 6-3 win.

Nardi was only playing after been awarded a ‘lucky loser’ spot having already lost in the qualifying rounds to David Goffin. A ‘lucky loser’ slot is given to players defeated in the qualifying phase allowing them to fill in the main draw for injured players who have to pull out before the first round.

Nardi has certainly made his participation count, beating Zhang Zhizhen in the second round of the main draw and then recording this impressive victory over Djokovic.

In doing so, Nardi became the lowest-ranked player to defeat Djokovic at the ATP Masters 1000 or grand slam level, according to the ATP. The 20-year-old also is now the fourth lowest-ranked player to beat a reigning world No. 1 at a Masters 1000 event.

After the defeat, Djokovic was extremely critical of his own performance, while also acknowledging Nardi deserved the win.

“He got in as a lucky loser to the main draw, so he really didn’t have anything to lose, so he played great. Deserved to win. I was more surprised with my level. My level was really, really bad,” Djokovic said.

“These two things come together. He’s having a great day; I’m having a really bad day. Results as a negative outcome for me.”

Djokovic returns a shot against Nardi. - Mark J. Terrill/AP
Djokovic returns a shot against Nardi. - Mark J. Terrill/AP

The Indian Wells tournament was Djokovic’s first competitive action since losing to another young Italian – the 22-year-old Jannik Sinner – in the semifinals of the Australian Open in January.

Having struggled past Australia’s Aleksandar Vukic in his first match of the tournament in California, the 36-year-old Djokovic never looked settled against Nardi.

A tight first set was eventually won by the 20-year-old Italian and although Djokovic managed to level the match in the second set, he couldn’t keep up with Nardi in the decider.

Djokovic saved three break points early in the third set, but was unable to do so in the sixth game when he was 0-40 down. It proved to be the turning point of the match as Nardi held on to claim a famous victory in two hours and 20 minutes.

Djokovic, who had been chasing a record sixth title at Indian Wells, expressed his concern about his form in 2024.

“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,” the 36-year-old said.

“It is part of the sport. You just have to accept it. Some you win; some you lose. Hopefully I’ll win some more and still keep going.

“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, who will now face the US’ Tommy Paul in the next round, couldn’t hide his disbelief at his victory.

Nardi celebrates the arguably the biggest win of his young career. - Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Nardi celebrates the arguably the biggest win of his young career. - Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

“I don’t know [how I held my nerve],” Nardi said of the tense finish. “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 added: “I think that before this night no one knew me. I hope that the crowd enjoyed the game. I’m super happy with this one.”

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