Novak Djokovic's Indian Wells Resurgence: A Five-Year Odyssey Ends

Novak Djokovic returns to Indian Wells for the first time since 2019

by Jovica Ilic
Novak Djokovic's Indian Wells Resurgence: A Five-Year Odyssey Ends
© Julian Finney / Staff - Getty Images Sport

World no. 1 Novak Djokovic will seek his sixth Indian Wells title in March, returning to the season's first Masters 1000 event for the first time since 2019! Novak experienced the semi-final loss at the Australian Open to Jannik Sinner, taking a break in February and hoping for a strong run in the desert after staying away from the prestigious event for half a decade.

Novak's first successes in Indian Wells came in 2008 and 2011, toppling Mardy Fish and Rafael Nadal in the title clashes. The Serb stood as a player to beat at the season's first Masters 1000 tournament between 2014 and 2016, lifting three consecutive titles before slowing down.

Djokovic destroyed Milos Raonic in the 2016 Indian Wells final, reducing the Canadian to two games and hoping for more notable runs in the years to come. Instead, Novak has played only six matches in Indian Wells since 2017, failing to reach the quarter-final for three years in a row and missing the desert show since 2019.

Djokovic will seek his 41st Masters 1000 title in March, hoping to dethrone Carlos Alcaraz and extend the gap to him in a battle for the ATP throne. Novak's most recent Indian Wells match came in the third round five years ago, falling to Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 6-4 in an hour and 38 minutes and extending his poor run in the desert.

Novak Djokovic, Indian Wells© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

The German ousted the Serb for the first time in ten years, imposing his strokes and using Novak's poor performance. Kohlschreiber tamed his strokes nicely and outplayed Djokovic in the most extended exchanges to seal the deal in straight sets and move into the last 16.

Philipp denied four out of five break points, keeping the pressure on the other side. Novak could not follow that pace, giving away 40% of the points in his games and suffering three breaks, enough to propel his rival over the top.

Kohlschreiber denied two break points in the early stages of the duel before the rain sent them off the court and scheduled their duel for tomorrow.

Novak Djokovic will play in Indian Wells in March.

The German fired a forehand winner on a break point at 2-3 and gained a boost, breaking the Serb with another forehand winner in the next one for a 4-2 advantage.

Philipp served for the set in game ten and landed a service winner for a hold at 30 and 6-4 after 53 minutes. Struggling to impose his strokes or find the rhythm, Novak lost serve at love in the first game of the second set after a forced error, propelling his rival further in front.

Kohlschreiber cemented the advantage with a hold after deuce, and they served well in the following four games. The German held at 15 in game six for 4-2 and secured another break in game seven after the Serb's forehand error, serving for the victory in the next one.

Novak Djokovic, Indian Wells 2019© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Novak pulled one break back in game eight, reducing the deficit and staying in contention. Djokovic held at love in game nine for 4-5 before Kohlschreiber fired a forehand winner in game ten, sealing the deal in style and becoming the oldest player in the Open era with a win over world no.

1. Half a decade later, Novak is still a player to beat, proving his outstanding consistency. Djokovic started the 2024 season at the United Cup, beating three rivals before falling to Alex de Minaur, struggling with the pain in his right wrist and not playing at his best.

The Serb caught a virus ahead of the Australian Open, seeking his 11th Melbourne Park trophy but giving the crown away. Novak struggled in the first two matches against Dino Prizmic and Alexei Popyrin, beating them in four sets after over three hours on the court.

He raised his level in the third and fourth rounds, ousting Tomas Martin Etcheverry and Adrian Mannarino to book a place in the quarter-final. Novak experienced another formidable obstacle in Taylor Fritz, prevailing 7-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 in three hours and 45 minutes.

Taylor played well in the opening two sets, defending all 15 break points and keeping the pressure on the other side. Djokovic denied a set point in the opener and clinched it in the tie break for a boost. Fritz grabbed an early break in the second set and brought it home with a hold in game ten, leveling the overall score after two hours and 23 minutes!

Novak Djokovic, Indian Wells 2019© Yong Teck Lim / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

However, the sun went down, and Djokovic felt much better on the court in sets three and four, breaking his rival four times and marching over the top.

However, Jannik Sinner proved too strong in the semi-final, dethroning Novak 6-1, 6-2, 6-7, 6-3 in three hours and 22 minutes, delivering the Serb's first Australian Open loss after reaching the semi-final. Jannik dominated in his games, never facing a break point and maintaining the pressure on the other side.

Novak could not endure it, losing serve five times and ending the duel with over 50 unforced errors. The veteran saved a match point in the tie break of the third set, extending the battle before ending his campaign with a single break offered to Sinner in the fourth set.

Novak will have another chance to challenge the young guns in Indian Wells, hoping to seek his first title of the season.

Novak Djokovic Indian Wells