Luca Nardi stuns boyhood tennis idol Novak Djokovic at Indian Wells

Nardi said it was ‘crazy’ that he beat the 24-time Grand Slam champion and his tennis idol after qualifying for the match as a lucky loser.

Mar 11, 2024; Indian Wells, CA, USA; Lucky looser Luca Nardi (ITA) reacts after defeating world number one Novak Djokovic (SRB) in the third round match in the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Lucky looser Luca Nardi reacts after defeating world number one Novak Djokovic in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells [Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters]

Luca Nardi used a combination of poise and power to stun his boyhood tennis idol and top seed Novak Djokovic with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, California.

Nardi, ranked number 123, closed out the huge upset over the world number with an ace and a look of disbelief late on Monday.

The 20-year-old from Italy dropped his racquet and brought his hands to his face before greeting Djokovic at the net.

“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.”

Nardi lost his qualifying match for the main draw but eventually entered it on the back of a player withdrawal. He received a bye through the opening round.

“He got in as a lucky loser to the main draw, so he really didn’t have anything to lose,” Djokovic said of Nardi.

“He deserved to win. I was more surprised with my level. My level was really, really bad. That’s it, these two things come together – he’s having a great day; I’m having a really bad day.”

The Italian ended the 11-match win streak of the veteran Serb, whose poster hung above his bed from the age of eight.

But the young player was not awed by Djokovic’s big game and broke him 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.

“This is a miracle,” Nardi said in an interview after the match on the Tennis Channel.

“I’m a 20-year-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.

Nardi has become the lowest-ranked player to beat Djokovic in a Grand Slam or ATP Masters 1000 level event, surpassing Kevin Anderson (ranked 122) in 2008 in Miami.

He will now face American Tommy Paul in the round of 16.

When asked about his thoughts on his opponent in the post-match news conference, Nardi seemed baffled.

He responded with: “Tommy Paul for what? I play against him? Oh really?”

The shocked Italian went on to add that he had not checked the draw, presumably as he was out of the tournament.

“Thanks for letting me know,” Nardi said to peals of laughter from the media.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies