Luca Nardi stuns boyhood idol and top-ranked Novak Djokovic with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win at Indian Wells

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) — 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.”

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.”

No. 4 Daniil Medvedev's was just good enough, as he edged No. 29 Sebastian Korda 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 and will face No. 13 Grigor Dimitrov.

Earlier in the day, Coco Gauff gave herself an early birthday present by beating Lucia Bronzetti 6-2, 7-6 (5) in the third round. Gauff, who turns 20 on Wednesday, struggled early but found a way to hold her serve by saving 10 of 11 break points. She closed out the match with a serve into the body that Bronzetti couldn't return. It extended Gauff's winning streak in the United States to 18 matches, a run that includes winning the title at last year's U.S. Open.

Bronzetti had a chance to force a third set when she took a 5-4 lead in the tiebreaker. Gauff won the next three points.

These days, Gauff is finding ways to win when she doesn't necessarily have all her shots tuned in.

“The mentality is the reason why I’m playing and the reason why I’m being successful,” said Gauff, who won a doubles match with partner Jessica Pegula later Monday.

Gauff will face Elise Mertens in the round of 16. Mertens held off Naomi Osaka 7-5, 6-4. Osaka played in the fifth tournament of her return after her maternity leave in 2023.

Two-time Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka beat 2021 U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu 6-3, 7-5 to advance.

On the men's side, No. 7 Holger Rune played his first match of the tournament and beat Lorenzo Musetti 6-2, 7-6 (5) to advance to the round of 16. Rune had a bye in the first round and advanced through the second when Milos Raonic withdrew with an injury. He will face No. 12 Taylor Fritz, the 2022 champion.

Gael Monfils won a three-set thriller over Cameron Norrie, the tournament's 2021 winner, in a match that took more than three hours.

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AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis