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Luca Nardi stuns boyhood idol and top-ranked Novak Djokovic at Indian Wells

Storm Sanders was Australia’s hero after she won the first singles rubber before returning for the deciding doubles match alongside 38-year-old Samantha Stosur.

March 12, 2024 10:50 pm | Updated 10:51 pm IST – Indian Wells, U.S.

Indian Wells, CA, USA; Luca Nardi reacts after defeating Novak Djokovic in the third round match in the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
| Photo Credit: Reuters

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 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.” 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,”…

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