âExhausted’ Djokovic suffers Ljubicic shock
Originally published on: 18/03/10 12:18
Nine years his junior, Novak Djokovic hadn’t lost to the experienced Ivan Ljubicic since 2006, but in the biggest shock at the BNP Paribas Open on Wednesday, it was the world No.2 who tired first, losing 7-5 6-3 to the 31-year-old tour journeyman.
Djokovic had won their past five meetings, and though the Serb had to come from behind two weeks ago during his run to the defence of his Dubai title, it seemed that the 22-year-old had the measure of the 26th ranked Croat after winning the deciding set of their quarter-final encounter 6-0.
But that was far from the case in Indian Wells, where the weary Djokovic’s recent winning exploits in Dubai and at the Davis Cup finally caught up with him.
“This is a tournament where I definitely didn’t feel comfortable on the court,” said Djokovic, who was pressed to three sets in each of his opening two matches – against Mardy Fish and Philipp Kohlschreiber – and had to save three match points in his third round tie with the German.
“It’s not because of the tournament itself. It’s just because I had a very tiring couple of weeks coming from Davis Cup, which was emotionally very exhausting for me.”
Djokovic downed Sam Querrey in four sets before scraping past John Isner in five to help Serbia to the quarter-finals of the Davis Cup for the first time in its history. But his efforts took their toll physically during the first Masters 1000 tournament of the year in Indian Wells, where he was champion in 2008.
“I am not happy with the overall performance that I had in this tournament, because I know I could have played better and could have done better,” Djokovic said, before adding; “But under decent circumstances I still made it to the fourth round, which is quite okay.”
After Djokovic’s exit, and with all the past champions now out of the women’s draw as well, Rafael Nadal is now the only remaining former champ in Indian Wells after he negotiated a testing encounter with in-form American John Isner.
The Spaniard, who defeated Andy Murray in last year’s final, eventually triumphed 7-5 3-6 6-3 against the 6ft 9 American, who admitted he had surpassed his own expectations with his performance.
“Actually, kind of exceeded it, to be honest with you. I never played him, never hit with him or practiced with him. His ball has some junk on it, which is tough to handle. I felt like I played pretty well. I might have run out of gas in the third set, but that’s what he does. He makes you work so hard for every point.”
Nadal praised the American in equal measure, predicting a big year ahead for Isner, who won his first ATP tour title in Auckland earlier this year.
“I did really well I think” he said. “I think John is a big player, very difficult to play against him, and he has unbelievable potential. So for me it is a very important and very good victory.”
Elsewhere in Indian Wells, Andy Murray progressed to the least eight after Spaniard Nicolas Almagro retired while trailing 6-1 1-0 to the world No.4.
Almagro’s countryman Tommy Robredo halted Marcos Baghdatis’ fairytale run at the tournament, preventing the Cypriot from building on his third round victory over world No.1 Roger Federer with a 7-5 0-6 6-4 triumph.