Novak Djokovic’s return ended with more questions than answers at Indian Wells Sunday. The 5-time champion looked good early on against qualifier Taro Daniel, but after a slew of errors – especially off the backhand – it was Daniel who came away with the shock 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-1 win.
By the end of the match, Djokovic was barely moving for some of Daniel’s winning shots, and, as he did in a loss to Dominic Thiem at the French, just looked disinterested in his first match since January.
“I’d like to congratulate my opponent for fighting and showing great, great spirit on the court,” said Djokovic. “For me it felt like first match I ever played on tour. Very weird. I mean, I just completely lost my rhythm. But I was grateful to be out on the court that quickly after surgery.”
Daniel, who had never beaten a Top 20 player before, was ecstatic with his big win.
“It was amazing,” the 109th-ranked Daniel said. “Warming up this morning, I was thinking that the court is really big. I was actually pretty nervous playing the match. But he obviously wasn’t in his top form, so I was able to take advantage of it. And even if I lost the second set, I still had faith I could pull something off in the third. And I was able to stay pretty tough, so I’m pretty proud of that.
“When I broke back in the first set I was thinking that he’s not playing well. I can do it. If I really stick to this, I can do it,” he added. “I felt like I could stick in there and stay calm. In the third set, I regrouped myself. I played the best set of the whole match and that was really good.”
It was Djokovic’s earliest loss at Indian Wells since his 2006 debut.
“I was not even supposed to be here because of the surgery that was only five, six weeks ago. But I recovered very quickly, and I got myself ready,” said Djokovic.
“I’m just happy that I managed to recover that quickly after surgery and just get out on the court.”
Daniel will next face Leonardo Mayer, a winner over Ruben Bemelmans who replaced Kei Nishikori after he withdrew with an illness.
Also falling was Alexander Zverev. The German’s slump continued after losing late in the evening to Joao Sousa 7-5, 5-7, 6-4. Zverev led by 5-2 in the first and 4-1 in the third. He hasn’t made a final since winning Canada last summer and has only made one semifinal in his last eight events.
Lucas Pouille was also stunned by India’s Yuki Bhambri.
On the winning side, Roger Federer had a work hard but he finally finished off Federico Delbonis 6-3, 7-6(8). The match resumed at 2-all in the second.
“They play very different,” Federer said of the balls. “In the nighttime, the ball is much more deader. The surface doesn’t react so much. The ball doesn’t travel so fast. Even though I served my five aces yesterday, I hit none today. So talking about faster, I just think there is more bounce to it, especially if you play someone who has a lot of spin like he has and kicks the ball around a lot. It’s been a long time since I have been interrupted at night and have to come back the next day.”
In the evening, Juan Martin del Potro had his way with Alex De Minaur blasting the young Australian 6-2, 6-1.
Jack Sock, David Ferrer, Marin Cilic were also winners along with Gael Monfils who edged John Isner and Milos Raonic who ended the run of Canadian countryman Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 6-4.
“He’s got a very positive, very, very positive future ahead of him,” Raonic said of the 17-year-old Aguer Aliassime. “He’s 10 years younger than me, so even 6 years old, I remember seeing him. He’s always had a great discipline and great work ethic. And he’s a lot further along than where I was when I was his age by light years.
“He’s got a lot to look forward to. He’s well beyond a 17-year-old physically. I don’t think I got to that point physically ever, you know, as far as maturity. He’s got a lot of things going for him, that’s for sure.”
On Monday, the third round wraps up with Federer back on court against Paris Indoor finalist Filip Krajinovic. American Taylor Fritz faces Fernando Verdasco, Tomas Berdych takes on Hyeon Chung and Pablo Cuevas duels Dominic Thiem.
MONDAY INDIAN WELLS SCHEDULE
STADIUM 1 Starts At 11:00 Am
3rd Rd Aliaksandra Sasnovich VS -2 Caroline Wozniacki
Not Before 1:00 Pm
3rd Rd -1 Roger Federer VS -25 Filip Krajinovic
3rd Rd -13 Sloane Stephens VS -20 Daria Kasatkina
3rd Rd Fernando Verdasco VS Taylor Fritz
Not Before 7:00 Pm
3rd Rd -8 Venus Williams VS Serena Williams
Not Before 8:30 Pm
3rd Rd -12 Tomas Berdych VS -23 Hyeon Chung
STADIUM 2 Starts At 11:00 Am
3rd Rd -7 Caroline Garcia VS -26 Daria Gavrilova
3rd Rd -24 Elena Vesnina VS -10 Angelique Kerber
3rd Rd Borna Coric VS -13 Roberto Bautista Agut
3rd Rd -27 Carla Suárez Navarro VS -4 Elina Svitolina
Not Before 6:00 Pm
3rd Rd -30 Pablo Cuevas VS -5 Dominic Thiem
2nd Rd Raven Klaasen/Michael Venus VS -8 Ivan Dodig/Rajeev Ram
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