Tennis: No. 123 Luca Nardi upsets No. 1 Novak Djokovic at Indian Wells


March 12 (UPI) -- Luca Nardi whipped his racket through the air and smashed an ace to his left, out of the reach of Novak Djokovic for match point, securing an upset over the top-ranked player in the world at the BNP Paribas Open.

Nardi, ranked No. 123, totaled six aces, converted 2 of 4 break point opportunities and totaled 34 winners in the 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 triumph Monday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, Calif.

"It's an amazing feeling," Nardi, who said he has a Djokovic poster on his bedroom door, told reporters. "I couldn't even imagine playing a match against him and now I also beat him.

"It's a dream come true for me."

Djokovic, 36, logged four aces, converted 3 of 11 break points and fired 17 winners. The Serbian was making his first appearance in the tournament since 2019, an absence related to COVID-19 travel restrictions and his unvaccinated status. He is a five-time champion at Indian Wells.

"He really didn't have anything to lose," Djokovic said. "He played great and deserved to win. I was more surprised with my level. My level was really, really bad."

Djokovic owns nearly 100 career titles, while Nardi, 20, is still searching for his first. The Italian made his ATP main-draw debut in 2020.

"I watched him play and knew he possessed great quality tennis from the baseline, especially for the forehand side," Djokovic said of Nardi. "He moves well and he's very talented."

Nardi is already up 28 spots in the live rankings and inside the Top 100 because of his run at the BNP Paribas Open. He will face No. 17 Tommy Paul of the United States in the Round of 16 on Wednesday at Indian Wells.

No. 4 Daniil Medvedev of Russia, No. 7 Holger Rune of Denmark, No. 9 Casper Ruud of Norway, No. 12 Taylor Fritz of the United States and No. 13 Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria were among the top men to win their matches Monday at the Masters 1000 event, one of the top non-Grand Slam tournaments on the ATP schedule.

No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, No. 3 Coco Gauff of the United States, No. 9 Maria Sakkari of Greece and No. 11 Daria Kasatkina of Russia were the top women to advance through Monday's matches.

The men's and women's finals will be held Sunday and air on the Tennis Channel.