Qualifier elbows out wayward Djokovic

Taro Daniel of Japan returns a backhand against Novak Djokovic of Serbia during his unexpected 7-6 (7-3), 4-6, 6-1 victory in the second round at Indian Wells on Sunday. Djokovic made 58 unforced errors against the world No. 109.
Taro Daniel of Japan returns a backhand against Novak Djokovic of Serbia during his unexpected 7-6 (7-3), 4-6, 6-1 victory in the second round at Indian Wells on Sunday. Djokovic made 58 unforced errors against the world No. 109.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

INDIAN WELLS (California) • The Novak Djokovic crisis continues.

On Sunday, the former world No. 1 could not even get past his opening match in Indian Wells, despite another extended break from the game he once dominated and after what he termed "a small medical intervention" on his troublesome right elbow.

On court, the troubles most definitely continue. What was mystifying was that he looked strong and precise in the early phases of his three-set loss to Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel in the second round.

Yet he failed to serve out the opening set at 5-3 before losing it in a tiebreaker.

Though Djokovic came back to win the second set, he lost momentum, bowing out 6-7 (3-7), 6-4, 1-6.

The final shot of the match was an errant forehand which was also his 58th unforced error.

"Very weird, I just completely lost rhythm. For me, it felt like the first match I ever played on the tour," said Djokovic, the No. 10 seed.

When asked to clarify, the Serb said: "Yeah, everything, nerves.

"I made so many unforced errors that it was just one of those days where you are not able to find the rhythm from the baseline, especially from the backhand side.

"That has always been a rock-solid shot for me throughout my career. Just some inexplicable, uncharacteristic errors, but that's I guess that's all part of the particular circumstances that I'm in at the moment."

New York-born Daniel, who next faces Leonardo Meyer in the third round, said: "The Djokovic I know is like the Djokovic I have seen on TV, and he never misses a ball, he puts the ball wherever he wants.

"Today, obviously he was missing a lot of balls, but even then you still have to beat him."

Clearly, comebacks from extended lay-offs are nowhere near as smooth as Roger Federer has made his look since last year.

On Sunday, he finished off his two-day 6-3, 7-6 (8-6) victory over Federico Delbonis to set up a third-round clash with 25th seed Filip Krajinovic yesterday (this morning, Singapore time).

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NY TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 13, 2018, with the headline 'Qualifier elbows out wayward Djokovic'. Print Edition | Subscribe