Indian Wells Buzz: Novak Djokovic's Arrival Sets the Stage for Tennis Spectacle

Novak Djokovic will play in Indian Wells for the first time in five years

by Jovica Ilic
Indian Wells Buzz: Novak Djokovic's Arrival Sets the Stage for Tennis Spectacle
© Alberto E. Rodriguez / Stringer - Getty Images Sport

World no. 1 and five-time Indian Wells champion Novak Djokovic can not wait for the tournament to start at Tennis Paradise! Novak will compete in the desert for the first time since 2019, seeking his sixth Indian Wells crown and the first of the season.

Djokovic took a break following the Australian Open semi-final loss to Jannik Sinner, skipping all the action in February and returning at the "Sunshine Double" in Indian Wells and Miami. The Serb is eager to play well at Stadium 1 in Indian Wells, shaping his form while training with Grigor Dimitrov and Sebastian Korda.

Novak lost his first Indian Wells final to Rafael Nadal in 2007. He bounced back a year later, ousting Mardy Fish and lifting the trophy.

Novak Djokovic, Indian Wells 2024© Matthew Stockman / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Djokovic took down Nadal in a thrilling final in 2011 for his second crown and dominated between 2014 and 2016, conquering three consecutive crowns before slowing down.

Novak has played only six matches in Indian Wells since 2017, losing before the quarter-final for three years in a row and not returning after 2019. Djokovic'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.

Novak did not play well in the desert for the third straight year, allowing Philipp to become the oldest player since the start of the ATP ranking with a win over world no. 1! Kohlschreiber defeated Djokovic for the first time in ten years, taming his strokes nicely and outplaying the world's best player in the most extended exchanges.

The German saved four out of five break points and maintained the pressure on the Serb. Novak lost 40% of the points in his games and suffered three breaks to hit the exit door. They competed for two days, with the rain sending them off the court in the early stages.

Novak Djokovic, Indian Wells 2024© Matthew Stockman / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Novak Djokovic is eager to compete in Indian Wells this week.

They returned the next day, and Philipp landed a forehand winner to save a break point in game six.

The veteran fired another in the next one, earning a break at 15 and opening a 4-3 gap. Kohlschreiber saved a break point in game eight and closed it with two service winners, cementing the lead and moving 5-3 in front. Novak reduced the deficit with a forehand winner in game nine before Philipp wrapped up the set with a service winner at 5-4.

Djokovic got broken at love at the beginning of the second set, with Kohlschreiber holding in the next one after deuce for a set and a break advantage. Philipp moved 4-2 up with a hold at 15 in game six and broke Novak again in the next one, forging a 5-2 advantage and serving for the win.

Djokovic pulled one break back and extended the battle after a hold at love in game nine. The veteran served for the win for the second time at 5-4 and sealed the deal with a forehand winner, celebrating his career-best victory.

Half a decade after his most recent Indian Wells match, Novak is still ranked at the top, presenting his incredible longevity and setting to become the oldest no. 1 player in April. Djokovic kicked off the current season at the United Cup, defeating two rivals before falling to Alex de Minaur, also struggling with a wrist injury.

The Serb left it behind ahead of Melbourne but did not play his best at the Australian Open in the opening two rounds, dealing with a minor virus.

Novak Djokovic, Indian Wells 2024© Matthew Stockman / Staff - Getty Images Sport

The defending champion beat the young Croat Dino Prizmic and Alexei Popyrin in four sets, staying on the court for over seven hours.

Djokovic found the pace behind the initial shot against Tomas Martin Etcheverry and Adrian Mannarino, beating them in straight sets and reaching the last eight. Novak had to dig deep against Taylor Fritz in a 7-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 triumph, prevailing after three hours and 45 minutes.

Djokovic failed to convert 15 break chances in the opening two sets, surviving in the opener but losing the second to keep the rival in contention after nearly two and a half hours under Melbourne's sun! It went down, and Novak felt better in sets three and four, delivering four breaks and emerging over the top to set the semi-final clash with Jannik Sinner.

The young Italian performed at his best and toppled the Serb 6-1, 6-2, 6-7, 6-3 in three hours and 22 minutes, moving into his first Major final at 22. Novak lost his first Melbourne match after passing the quarter-final stage, spraying over 50 unforced errors and losing ground in the shortest exchanges up to four strokes.

Sinner grabbed five breaks from 11 chances, leaving Djokovic miles behind in the opening two sets and squandering a match point in the third. The young gun made a fresh start in the fourth set, breaking Novak once and moving over the top.

Djokovic will start his Indian Wells campaign against Aleksandar Vukic or Shintaro Mochizuki.

Novak Djokovic, Indian Wells 2024© Matthew Stockman / Staff - Getty Images Sport

"The last time I played on this beautiful court was in 2019.

It feels like it was yesterday. It's amazing to be back at Tennis Paradise, and I can not wait for the tournament to start! Let's go," Novak Djokovic said.

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