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'Lucky loser' Nardi stuns Djokovic at Indian Wells


Luca Nardi used a combination of poise and power to stun his boyhood idol and top-seeded Novak Djokovic with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win on Monday night in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open.

Nardi, who’s ranked No. 123, closed out his huge upset over the No. 1 player in the rankings with an ace. The 20-year-old from Italy dropped his racket and brought his hands to his face almost in disbelief before greeting Djokovic at the net.

“This is a miracle,” Nardi said in an interview after the match on the Tennis Channel. “I’m a 20-years-old guy, 100 in the world, and beating Novak. So, crazy. Crazy.”

Setting the tone early with his hard-hitting shots, Nardi frustrated Djokovic all evening. There was a moment when Nardi was surprised by an “in” call and casually hit the ball back over the net. It resulted in a winner and led to Djokovic complaining to the official about a potential hindrance.

To think, Nardi was nearly on his way home. He got into the field as a “lucky loser,” which is a player who stumbled on the final hurdle in qualifying but made it into the main draw as a replacement for an injured player who pulled out before the first round. In Nardi’s case, he stepped in for No. 30 Tomas Martin Etcheverry and received a bye through the opening round.

He went on to become the lowest-ranked player to beat Djokovic in a Grand Slam or ATP Masters 1000 level event, surpassing No. 122 Kevin Anderson in 2008 in Miami.

Using a combination of aggressiveness and finesse, Nardi had Djokovic, the 24-time Grand Slam singles champion from Serbia he grew up watching, smiling and shaking his head at times in a mixture of surprise and shock.

Nardi was far from intimidated, either, answering Djokovic’s well-placed shots with well-placed returns of his own.

“Before this night, no one knew me,” said Nardi, who will face American Tommy Paul in the round of 16. “I hope now the crowd enjoyed the game. I’m super happy with this one.”

“This is a miracle. I’m a 20-years-old guy, 100 in the world, and beating Novak. So, crazy. Crazy.”

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Luca Nardi

Djokovic certainly didn’t know that much about Nardi, only what he gleaned watching him play. He knew Nardi had a strong baseline game, especially with the forehand, and moved well.

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

Djokovic, who lost to another Italian, Jannik Sinner, in the semifinals of the Australian Open in January, said he would likely take the court at the Miami Open later this month, in search of his first title of the year.

“No titles this year, that’s not something I’m used to,” he said. “I was starting the season most of my career with a Grand Slam win or, you know, Dubai win, or any tournament.

“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.”

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.



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