'Lucky loser' Luca Nardi sends Novak Djokovic packing in massive Indian Wells shock

Novak Djokovic leaves the court after losing to Luca Nardi at Indian Wells. Picture: Matthew Stockman / Getty Images / AFP

Novak Djokovic leaves the court after losing to Luca Nardi at Indian Wells. Picture: Matthew Stockman / Getty Images / AFP

Published Mar 12, 2024


Qualifying lucky loser Luca Nardi scored the biggest win of his young career on Monday, stunning world number one Novak Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 at the ATP-WTA Indian Wells Masters.

The world number 123 from Italy ended the 11-match win streak of the veteran Serb at Masters events, with Nardi bettering the childhood tennis idol whose poster hung above his bed from the age of eight.

The 20-year-old was not awed by the big game of Djokovic, and broke Djokovic for a 4-2 lead in the deciding set before pounding out the victory three games later with a match point ace.

The Italian finished with 36 winners and 41 unforced errors while Djokovic had 31 errors in just under two and a half hours.

"Before this night no-one knew me," Nardi said in an on-court interview after his win. "I hope the crowd enjoyed the game; I'm super happy with this one."

Asked how he had pulled off the biggest win of his career, Nardi replied: "I don't know. I think it really is a miracle. I'm a guy ranked outside the top 100 in the world and now I'm beating Novak - crazy, crazy."

Nardi only reached the main draw in Indian Wells after a withdrawal. He had been beaten by Belgium's David Goffin in the final round of qualifying.

In other games on Monday, seventh seed Holger Rune finally made it onto court after a first-round bye and a walkover in the second round against injured Milos Raonic.

The 20-year-old Dane got off and running in the event with a 6-2, 7-6 (7/5) defeat of Italy's Lorenzo Musetti, earning revenge for a loss on grass last June at Queen's Club, London.

"It feels great to finally get started," he said after reaching the fourth round here for the first time.

"The wait is finally over, I was so eager to play, though I did get two extra practice days."

Norway's ninth seed Casper Ruud advanced past Arthur Fils of France 6-2, 6-4.

Sabalenka, Gauff advance

French showstopper Gael Monfils ended the run of 2021 champion Cameron Norrie, with the 36-year-old winner and the Briton playing a massive 31 break points in a match won by Monfils 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/5), 6-3.

Tommy Paul, who next faces Nardi, earned a home win with his 6-4, 6-4 defeat of Dubai champion Ugo Humbert.

Taylor Fritz joined him, 6-2, 6-2 over Argentine Sebastian Baez.

In the women's draw, reigning women's Grand Slam champions Aryna Sabalenka and Coco Gauff reached the fourth round with challenging straight-set wins.

But former number one and 2018 tournament winner Naomi Osaka failed to join them, with the Japanese player eliminated 7-5, 6-4 by Elise Mertens, who now takes on Gauff.

The Belgian saved three break points in the final game, advancing on her second match point which drew an Osaka error.

Osaka, a four-time winner at the majors, is making her return to tennis this season after giving birth.

Earlier, double Sabalenka defeated Emma Raducanu 6-3, 7-5 but double-faulted on a match point and needed three more winning chances before finally going through.

"I was super-happy to close this match in two sets; the last game was tight," Sabalenka said. "If I had lost that game it would give her emotionally much more belief and confidence - going to the tiebreak you never know, it's 50/50."

Gauff, who won the US Open last September as a teenager, overcame Lucia Bronzetti 6-2, 7-6 (7/5) as she closed out victory in a tiebreaker with a minimum of drama.

The US Open champion, who turns 20 on Wednesday, won her sixth straight match against an Italian opponent.

"She played really well," the winner said of Bronzetti. "But I was much better than in my last match - I'm improving with each one."